As the only team in program history to enjoy an undefeated season, the 1987-88 Northeastern Huskies have gained a well-deserved place in the pantheon of university athletics. Earning a place in the Huskies Athletics Hall of Fame, this long overdue recognition serves as affirmation of this team’s impact in terms of history and achievement. Such an exceptional season resulted in the Huskies fifth consecutive Beanpot Tournament triumph, along with the Concordia (Montreal) Tournament and the distinguished dual feat of the ECAC Regular season and Postseason championship.
Boasting an exceptional group of world-class talent, from the likes of team captains Tina Cardinale and Marjorie Sanford, to elite goaltender Kelly Dyer and Canadian sensations Donna-Lynn Rosa and Fiona Rice, the exceptional team culture in place can be traced to one exceptional person. The architect behind this masterful team, head coach Don MacLeod also assembled a 42-game unbeaten streak from 1987 to 1989. Arriving at Matthews Arena in 1981, the start of a brilliant 12-year run resulted in an astounding 210 career wins.
Inducted individually into the Huskies Hall of Fame in 2013, the honor built on the momentum of a place in the Beanpot Hall of Fame one year earlier. Before the decade expired, MacLeod not only gained a place on the Beanpot 40th Anniversary Team, the prestige of the ACHA Women’s Ice Hockey Founder Award was bestowed upon him in 2019. Forever proud of his achievements with the Huskies, the jubilation surrounding his unforgettable 1987-88 team joining the pantheon of Huskies all-time greats in the Hall may stand as his proudest legacy.
“I feel they deserve it. It’s been some 30+ years. A few of the players were inducted individually. For them to be inducted again with this team, is great. When they were first inducted, my wife and I attended. To see the magnitude and see them get the honor, I was proud.
When I was notified that we would go in the Hall this year, if I can brag, I was very pumped up for that. Here I am in my eighties, still involved with the program. It is going to be a major weekend for all the players. I am tremendously impressed that the school did this.
There will be a whole weekend of activities, including the varsity game versus Providence. Regarding the induction process, we will be introduced last, adding to the excitement. The next day there will be a cookout in the parking lot at Matthews Arena. At the game, our team will be coming out, and the announcer will recognize us on the bench. This will be a special reunion.”
Emerging as the Huskies’ leading scorer in 87-88, accumulating a phenomenal 59 points, Cardinale displayed impressive playmaking skills with 41 assists. Susie Perkins, who grew up in Brantford, Ontario and knew Wayne Gretzky in her youth, lit the lamp 30 times, her 46 points ranking second in team scoring. Third and fourth in team scoring were long-time friends Fiona Rice and Donna-Lynn Rosa. Having played together since their pre-teens, Rice also amassed 46 points, on the strength of 31 assists, while Rosa led all blueliners with 22 goals and 21 assists. Of note, the only other player on this magical team to record at least 30 points was Lucy Goodwin, whose 14 goals and 19 assists landed her in the top five.
Between the pipes, Kelly Dyer enjoyed a sparkling 20-0-1 mark, with 1222 minutes played and 511 saves for a 2.16 goals against average. Serving dutifully in the back-up role, Sue Guay enjoyed seven appearances, enjoying six wins and five shutouts.
With solid contribution from so many talented competitors, it stands as a point of pride for Cardinale. In the role of team captain, her thoughts on the Hall of Fame reflect an exceptional strong leadership and character that defines her to this day. While she earned individual accolades as a member of the Hall in 2002, also recognized as a member of the 1980s AWHCA All-Decade Team, she is quick to recognize that the overall contributions of every member of the team was crucial to her own individual success. Recognizing the sense of family which stood as the cornerstone of the Huskies, the team accolade is poised to be the most important for her. As so many members of that team remain in touch to this day, it stands as testament to what the experience meant Inn each other’s lives.
“Although I am fortunate to have accolades individually, it is a team sport. I only got the records and points because of the team around me. The team being recognized, it is great. The culture we had was just amazing, we were right there for each other.
The induction is going to be a blast. Some of the stories from back then, I probably do not remember half of them (laughs). Even when Dave Flint talked to us and told us about the induction, he was shocked that so many of us stayed in touch all these years.”
Echoing Cardinale’s sentiments is Donna-Lynn Rosa, one of the first Canadians to earn a scholarship to play NCAA women’s ice hockey. Raised in Mississauga, Ontario, Rosa also served as Huskies captain in her senior year. Part of the program’s first 20-win season, she gained induction into the Huskies Hall of Fame in 2009. Becoming part of another important legacy in Huskies lore, among the number of exceptional Canadians recruited by MacLeod to wear the team colors, that feeling of family during her time in Boston took on extra meaning.
“Honestly, we just really respected each other. We knew how to be there for each other and it was like a family. I lived almost 13 hours away from home. I remember, on American Thanksgiving, I went to a teammate’s house. Those types of experiences formed strong bonds. You don’t find that everywhere.
Players are coming in from California, Florida and Vancouver, from all four corners of the continent for the induction. We have been in touch with every one all these years. There has been a lot of life that has happened and here we are today, sharing a bond that remains unbreakable. Sharing the stories will be the most fun. This to me is even better than being inducted individually. This is something that not a lot of players get to experience. It is extra special.”
Following up the 87-88 season by leading the Huskies to their second straight ECAC championship season in 1989, sporting a 22-3-0 mark, Rosa enjoyed the opportunity to play with another highly notable Canadian. Influential in welcoming Vicky Sunohara to the program, she logged an astounding 78 points, highlighted by a record 51 goals. Additionally, Rosa and Sunohara shared in the milestone of the 1989 Beanpot with a 9-0 trouncing of Harvard, the program’s sixth straight title.
“I really enjoyed my experience at Northeastern with Coach McLeod. I learned from the moment he came to recruit me that this would be a big jump from minor hockey. He was very professional, passionate about the game and focused on building a great program. This was the closest to being a professional hockey player that I had ever been. I learned so much. Fiona and Donnie were amazing people first. They made me feel comfortable and welcome. Their leadership, skill and hockey IQ were a huge part of the team’s success.”
Following the 1989-90 season, which saw Rosa serve on MacLeod’s coaching staff, a unique event allowed a handful of Huskies an historic connection to the game. With Canada’s capital Ottawa serving as host for the inaugural IIHF Women’s Worlds, the event allowed a proud extension of the 87-88 team. Cardinale and Dyer both wore the Stars and Stripes while McLeod served as head coach. While Sunohara and fellow Husky Laura Schuler skated for Canada, Rosa enjoyed a place in the broadcast booth. Part of the announce team for The Sports Network, she worked alongside Michael Landsberg and Howie Meeker.
Coincidentally, when Ottawa served as host city for the 2013 edition of the IIHF Women’s Worlds, Husky pride was evident once again. From Lucie Povova skating for Czech Republic, while Florence Schelling guarded the crease for Switzerland, Kendall Coyne was among the stars for the gold medal winning United States.
Fittingly, this intriguing connection to Ottawa and USA Hockey, shall reach a sense of full circle at this year’s induction, as generations of women’s ice hockey brilliance connect. In addition to the 87-88 team, Kendall Coyne, who owns the program’s single season record for points with 84, is among the honored inductees. With a highly impressive list of accolades and achievements, Coyne also served as the Huskies captain, a lineage that includes the likes of Cardinale and Rosa. In awe of Coyne’s exceptional speed, Cardinale is excited in sharing the Hall of Fame honor on the same night. With a player of Cardinale’s skill having laid the foundation for the program’s future glories, to have seen the torch passed to a player like Coyne, while the Huskies remain an excellent program, represents a remarkable bridge.
“It is very neat. Her skill set is amazing, one of the fastest women that I have ever seen skate. It is remarkable to see the program continued, having won the Hockey East titles and appeared in the Frozen Four. To see the growth is wonderful.”
The measuring stick for the Huskies throughout the season were the defending ECAC champion New Hampshire Wildcats. Having bested the Huskies by a 3-2 mark to win the 87 title,. Consistently one of the top teams in the nation during the latter half of the 80s, led by head coach Russ McCurdy, the Wildcats gave the Huskies their toughest competition in 87-88.
With a team headlined by future Harvard head coach Katey Stone, plus the likes of Shelly DiFronzo, Pam Manning, Liz Tura and Dawn Wright, among others, the rivalry took on a new dimension during such a magical season. On December 8, 1987, the first match between the two resulted in a early holiday gift for the Huskies with an outcome that made a powerful statement. A seesaw battle with the Wildcats resulted in a 4-4 score after regulation. Managing to prevail in overtime, the energizing finale provided the Huskies with their ninth straight win to start the season.
In the New Year, the opening game of the Providence Tournament saw a rematch between the two titans. Although the final was 4-4, giving the Huskies an 11-0-1 mark, they would reel off 12 straight wins afterwards, besting their opponents by a cumulative score of 58-16.
Ending their regular season on February 16 with another match versus the Huskies, it marked a defining moment in program history. Falling behind early, memories of past defeats to their archrivals lingered. With Dyer maintaining her poise between the pipes, a comeback maintained the greatest season in Huskies history, providing a huge confidence as the postseason loomed. As Cardinale recalls, it was a tremendous test as to whether the undefeated season could be preserved.
“In the final game of the regular season, we were down vs UNH. As we were losing, we were freaking out, worrying about our undefeated season. We ended up winning 6-4 and it was just emotional. We were flying so high, as they were our Kryptonite. It was a tough back and forth. I remember how happy Kelly was. The exuberance of such a win.”
The postseason saw the Huskies challenge the Harvard Crimson in the semifinals of the fifth annual ECAC Tournament. Goals by Perkins, Cardinale and Chris Fitzgerald resulted in a 3-1 advantage after the first period. Followed by Rice placing her name on the scoresheet in the second, Charlotte Jaslin trimmed the Huskies lead at the 14:25 mark. Extending the lead in the third period, as Perkins found the back of the net twice, her efforts with the hat trick proved to foreshadow further heroics.
Opposing the Providence Friars in the championship game, the March 8 affair proved to be Rosa’s finest hour. Traditionally a blueliner, Rosa played on a line with Cardinale and Perkins. The strategy was highly effective, as Rosa registered a natural hat trick in merely 73 seconds. With her linemates earning the assists on the first and third goals, scored at the 9:33 and 10:46 mark of the first, Goodwin logged the helper on the second goal at 10:24.
Before the period expired, Friars star forward Heather Linstad, the eventual 1989 ECAC Player of the Year, spoiled Dyer’s bid for a shutout as Heather LaDuke and Kelly O’Leary provided the assists. Coincidentally, Linstad would inherit the Huskies head coaching duties from MacLeod in 1992.
Duplicating her efforts from the semi-finals, Rice scored the opening goal of the second period once again. Despite a 4-1 advantage, Providence clawed back. O’Leary placed her name on the score sheet later in the frame, while the third saw Linstad and O’Leary assist on a goal by Lisa Brown. Holding to a narrow one-goal advantage, Goodwin scored at the 13:16 mark for not only the final goal of the game, but the last in an undefeated season that remains the gold standard in Northeastern ice hockey.
Reflecting on the magnitude of defeating Providence to capture the ECAC championship, Rosa beams with pride. As Rice also scored in the final, the longtime friends enjoyed a unique brush with destiny, their intertwined careers reaching a glorious pinnacle. Although the decade to follow would see the female game grow by a quantum leap, that epic contest represented a moment that stood as the foundation for an unfolding future, demonstrating the potential that could be reached by such highly talented and empowering competitors.
“I remember one of those goals was from the point. It was pretty neat getting a natural hat trick. To achieve it in just one minute and 13 seconds was shocking. To beat Providence was a highlight. We had a team that clicked. You know when the team is something special, and that year, we were special. At the time, it was the highest level of hockey that we could imagine. To win the championship that year was like our Olympics, our Stanley Cup.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”