No. 7 Northeastern (20-6-3, 13-3-2 WHEA) has secured a bye to the WHEA semifinals, after Florence Schelling stopped 35 Maine shots in the Huskies' 4-0 win this afternoon at Matthews Arena.
Schelling now leads the nation with seven shutouts. Graduate tri-captain Dani Rylan opened the scoring six minutes into the game; junior tri-captain Casey Pickett doubled the lead during the second period, and Northeastern added a pair of late shorthanded empty-net goals to ice the game.
With 28 points in Hockey East play, Northeastern can do no worse than tie with third-place Boston University, but having won the season series with the Terriers, the Huskies are guaranteed at least second place and a bye to the WHEA semifinals.
Rylan's marker may not have been her best chance at goal in the early going. Sophomore Claire Santostefano teed her up between the hashmarks, but the Tampa, Florida native's shot screamed wide of Maine goaltender Brittany Ott.
On the line's next shift, however, Rylan got it right to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. Combination play from Santostefano and freshman Lucie Povova set up Rylan in the high slot, five feet farther out than her first attempt. This time, her shot glanced Ott's glove and skittered over the line to give the NU captain her third of the year at 6:33.
As it would for much of the afternoon, Maine held its own through a first period in which the teams fired 10 shots apiece. Late in the opening frame Myriam Croussette broke free of the NU defense and had only Schelling to beat, but the Swiss international made a rather casual butterfly save and then stoned Dominique Goutsis' rebound attempt, as the Huskies took their slim lead to the locker room.
Sophomore Sonia St. Martin took the game's first penalty just 1:45 into the second period after bodychecking a Maine attacker while trying to dig the puck out of the corner. It would be the first of six Husky penalties - and the first of three to St. Martin - but it also signaled the start of Northeastern's shorthanded dominance that had them unlucky not to net three shorthanded goals by game's end. On this penalty kill, Danielle Ward's shot was blocked and freshman Kendall Coyne burst through the neutral zone, but the Maine goaltender was up to the task and coolly denied NU's leading scorer.
Sophomore Maggie DiMasi joined Santostefano on a two-on-one rush that culminated in a bodychecking minor on Maine's Missy Denk, but seconds later freshman Colleen Murphy negated the power play with a trip on Maine leading scorer Brittany Dougherty, who had gained the offensive zone.
Junior Kelly Wallace, who was active all afternoon without hitting the box score, drew a tripping call on Ashley Norum as the two battled in the neutral zone to give Northeastern its second power play. The Huskies nearly went two up soon after when Ott gave up a healthy rebound on Murphy's shot from the right point - senior tri-captain Stephanie Gavronsky pounced on the puck, but Ott did well to stop the second effort.
Maine earned a second breakaway in as many periods when Tori Pasquariello got in behind the defense, but the Huskies were let off the hook as Pasquariello fired well high of Schelling's cage.
Northeastern was playing with fire at 14:13 when, after St. Martin had gone to the box for bodychecking, Coyne went off for holding to give the Black Bears 1:20 of five-on-three time. Schelling, however, would not let Northeastern concede, making save after save, including an incredible stop on Croussette, who had taken possession at point blank with time to dangle. Schelling made 17 saves in the second period.
St. Martin eventually returned to the fray to nearly even the sides, and Coyne returned just in time to see her team double its lead on what could easily have been a shorthanded goal. Gavronsky intercepted a pass in her defensive zone and lugged the puck down behind the Maine goal; after fighting off a defender to keep possession, she fired in front and found the tape of Pickett, who buried her 17th of the season at 16:15. Pickett, who scored the overtime winner that won Northeastern its first Beanpot since 1998, now has a goal in two straight games and sits third among Hockey East players with 1.34 points per game.
Maine penalties to Croussette and Goutsis stymied any potential Maine comeback early in the third period. On the latter penalty kill, Croussette did once again get behind the Northeastern back line, but yet again Schelling's heroics kept the score the same - this time it was a lunging kick save after Croussette had deked to her left side.
The Huskies might have gone three up when Wallace intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and found junior Rachel Llanes, but Wallace's one-time effort off the return pass was well saved by Ott, who made 26 saves on the afternoon.
A couple of Northeastern penalties injected a modicum of late drama to the game. First St. Martin took her third minor of the day, for tripping at 12:34, and Schelling made the second of two outstanding saves off deflections from Ward.
Then, with 3:10 to play, Pickett earned two minutes for hooking and Ott was pulled for an extra attacker, but the two goals scored during the penalty were not what the Black Bears had in mind. First Gavronsky took possession and hit Coyne, who blitzed up ice and buried her 25th of the season from a tight angle. A minute later DiMasi intercepted a pass at her own blue line and deftly guided one in from distance to seal the game.
The two teams will lock horns once again tomorrow afternoon from Matthews Arena at 2 p.m.