Siena Falino and Rachel Llanes brought Northeastern out of an early 2-0 hole, and Kendall Coyne netted the winner as No. 7 Northeastern (18-6-3, 12-3-2 WHEA) came from behind to defeat Connecticut this afternoon at Matthews Arena.
Llanes, one of the heroes of NU's Beanpot semifinal victory on Tuesday night, has now tallied in three of her last four games. Coyne's winner makes her Northeastern's active career leader with seven game-winning goals. Senior Florence Schelling had 20 saves for her 16th win of the season.
The teams traded close-range chances early as both teams' offenses struggled out of the blocks. First Coyne found herself on the doorstep but was denied by Nicole Paniccia; minutes later UConn's leading scorer Emily Snodgrass unleashed a backhand wrister that nearly caught Schelling by surprise, but the Swiss international made an instinctive kick save with her right pad.
Coyne and sophomore Claire Santostefano followed with half chances, but Paniccia was resolute through the early going, stopping all 11 shots in the opening frame.
UConn took the game's first power play at 13:07 when Coyne bodychecked an opposing Husky in the neutral zone. UConn nearly went up against the nation's top-ranked power play, but Schelling saved Casey Knajdek's initial effort and, with Schelling out of position for the rebound, sophomore Sonia St. Martin saved the day with a crucial block on Kayla Campero, who had rushed in from the weak side.
Back at even strength, a bad pass on a Northeastern breakout let Alexandra Vakos walk in all alone, but Schelling kicked out the left pad and then deftly snatched the rebound out of the air with her glove to keep the sides level.
Coyne made a return trip to the box at 18:31 for cross-checking, and this time UConn made Northeastern pay. Sami Evelyn's wrist shot came in innocuously from right of the slot, but Snodgrass' deflection sent it all the way across Schelling's cage, and it crept by her to her right to give UConn a 1-0 lead with seconds to play in the first.
Northeastern came out strong to start the second, with Coyne and junior Brittany Esposito going close within the first minute, and the Huskies were rewarded for their aggressiveness when Campero took a roughing minor at 1:02. NU squandered the man advantage, however, with senior tri-captain getting two minutes of her own for bodychecking Kiana Nauheim during the forecheck.
UConn went two up on their end of the power play under somewhat controversial circumstances. Knajdek's wrist shot was denied by Schelling but sent the NU goaltender sprawling backwards into her own net, and Rachel Farrel jammed the rebound under Schelling and just over the goal line. The play was originally ruled no goal, but the decision was reversed after review. and Hockey East's minnows had themselves an unlikely 2-0 lead at 3:12 of the second.
Maude Blain tripped Coyne behind the UConn net to give Northeastern a power play reprieve at 6:03. Coyne launched three shots in rapid succession from point blank, and freshman Ann Doherty was teed up twice in space at the left point, but Paniccia stayed perfect as Northeastern kept on pace for 40+ shots as the teams reached the midpoint.
Coyne continued to stay right in the thick of things, drawing another UConn penalty, this one a bodychecking minor to Kelly Horan at 12:25. She then teed up Esposito low in the slot, but a last-ditch block from a UConn defender kept the score 2-0.
The offensive frustration might have continued but for a superlative one-two punch from Falino and Llanes that tied the game. With Horan still in the box, freshman Colleen Murphy took possession in space at the left point and launched towards goal, and Falino deflected it in midair over Paniccia's right shoulder. The goal was Falino's third of the season.
Just 1:08 later, junior Kelly Wallace sent behind the net for sophomore Katie MacSorley, who placed one in the slot and right on the tape of the Huskies' hottest scorer, junior Rachel Llanes, who buried her ninth of the season to tie the game at 15:23.
Northeastern took all the momentum into the third period when Jocelyn Slattery went to the box for hitting from behind with under a minute to play in the second, but despite solid chances the Huskies could not convert on either side of the second intermission as the score remained 2-2. After splitting the shots 11 apiece in the first period, NU outshot Connecticut, 18-5, in the second.
UConn nearly snatched the go-ahead goal on the break during a two-on-one, but Schelling was by then looking very comfortable in net and easily pushed Stephanie Raithby's effort aside.
Northeastern was over the 40-shot mark with seven minutes to play when combination play from Coyne and junior tri-captain Casey Pickett set up Esposito, who forced a fabulous save from Paniccia, who stopped 43 shots on the day.
Coyne had been involved with everything but a goal, but she changed that with 4:33 to play. Murphy blocked a shot in the NU defensive zone and did well to hit the Palos Heights, Ill. native as she darted into the neutral zone. Coyne did the rest, weaving in and out of UConn defenders before finishing masterfully along the ice to Paniccia's left. It was Coyne's 23rd marker of the year, which leads Hockey East.
UConn could not muster a serious offensive threat in the game's closing minutes, with Northeastern nearly doubling its lead multiple times through Wallace. Paniccia was pulled for an extra attacker with a minute to play, but Connecticut could not get a clean look as Northeastern saw out a hard-fought victory.
Northeastern will have two days to prepare for Tuesday's Beanpot final, in which they'll face Boston University at 8 p.m. at Walter Brown Arena. The Terriers defeated NU on Jan. 28, 3-2, after the Huskies had defeated them twice earlier in the season.