Home » Longtime Olympic teammate of former Bulldog leads Northeastern into Frozen Four in Duluth

Longtime Olympic teammate of former Bulldog leads Northeastern into Frozen Four in Duluth

DULUTH — Northeastern fifth-year senior forward Alina Müller has led the Huskies to their third-straight NCAA Frozen Four this season, and for the first time, her good friend from Switzerland’s Olympic and national teams, Lara Stalder, can root for her.

Stalder played four years for Minnesota Duluth from 2013-17, and in the last two Frozen Fours, Stalder’s alma mater, the Bulldogs, were the Huskies’ semifinal opponent. Both games were decided in OT with Northeastern winning in 2021 and UMD prevailing in double-OT last year.

Now Müller and the Huskies are in Duluth at Stalder’s own stomping grounds. Northeastern won’t see the Bulldogs this time around. Instead NU gets defending national champion Ohio State at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Amsoil Arena. Minnesota and Wisconsin meet in the other semifinal at 6 p.m.

Northeastern forward Alina Müller (11) speaks during a press conference after practice for the Frozen Four at Amsoil Arena on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Müller said she’s gotten a few messages in the last week from Stalder about Duluth, including the places the former UMD standout loved to visit in the city.

“She’s one of my best friends and one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with,” Müller said. “Obviously an elite hockey player, but just she’s just so young, very fun to be around, very polite. I always have so much fun with her. I’m very excited in about one and a half weeks, I will see her again. I learned a lot from her, definitely. We spend a lot of time together.”

Müller and Stalder have played together on three Swiss Olympic teams in 2014, 2018 and 2022, winning a bronze medal together in Sochi in 2014.

Ice Hockey - Women's Play-offs Quarterfinals - Russian Olympic Committee v Switzerland

Lara Stalder of Switzerland in action with Valeria Merkusheva of the Russian Olympic Committee during the 2022 Olympics at Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing, China on February 12, 2022.

BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS

Stalder, who turns 29 in May, started her career at UMD as a defenseman before transitioning to a forward. She’s 12th all-time in scoring at UMD with 148 points via 54 goals and 94 assists, having been named an All-American and top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as a senior in 2016-17 when UMD’s season ended via an NCAA regional quarterfinal loss to Minnesota at Amsoil Arena. Stalder led the nation in scoring that season, averaging 1.60 goals per game.

Müller has 98 goals and 156 assists in her career at Northeastern, having been named Hockey East Player of the Year three times. She’s a five-time Patty Kaz top-10 finalist and is in the top three for a second time in her career.

If Müller wins Saturday when the award is presented at Amsoil Arena, she would be the first non-North American born player to win the award, as Stalder was passed over in 2017.

With women’s and girls hockey growing in Switzerland — Stalder will play professionally there next season after playing six years in Sweden — Müller said the recognition of Swiss players by the Patty Kazmaier committee is important.

“For them, hearing names like Lara Stalder or Florence Schelling (former Northeastern goalie), what she did, and just hearing what we can do as women hockey players, and what path we can take playing hockey here, just how much fun we have — I think it’s huge for them to see and grow women’s hockey back home,” Müller said. “I always have that in the back of my mind, representing Switzerland and Northeastern wherever I go.”

college women's ice hockey practice

Northeastern head coach Dave Flint talks to his team during practice for the Frozen Four at Amsoil Arena on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Duluth.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“They’re good. They’re very good,” Northeastern coach Dave Flint said about the Buckeyes. “They’re fast. They’re tenacious, but there are ways you can break them down. They have one speed, one mode, and if you let them push you around, you’re going to be in trouble. But if you push back, then I think it’ll be a bit of a hockey game.”

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men’s and women’s hockey programs.