ST. CLOUD, Minn. —
Northeastern University prevailed 2-1 over St. Cloud State University in a match up of Husky versus Husky for the final game of the 2011 Easton Holiday Showcase.
Although No. 10 Northeastern (11-5-4, 3-3-3 HEA) was the favorite entering the game, their victory required heroics from sources both likely and unlikely. Swiss Olympic goaltender Florence Schelling stopped 39 of 40 shots put on goal by SCSU (0-18-1, 0-13-1-1 WCHA). At the other end of the ice, junior forward Dani Rylan scored her first goal for Northeastern to break a 1-1 tie.
“With [Schelling] in net, we have a chance against anybody on any given night,” Northeastern coach Dave Flint said. “She won us a game today. We didn’t deserve to win that game. They outplayed us, they had the better chances, and I thought we had a good goalie and that’s all.”
NU also had a huge contribution from Rylan, who took a shot from the left wing on a three-on-two that beat St. Cloud netminder Ashley Nixon. Rylan hails from Tampa, Fla., and is in her first year with Northeastern after previously playing for Metro State, a men’s D-II club hockey team.
Other than Rylan’s goal at 16:24, St. Cloud had the visitors on the ropes for much of the final period, including a 20-10 advantage in shots. Excepting a breakaway that Molli Mott slipped through the five-hole, Schelling held firm.
“I thought we ran out of gas early,” Flint said. “I don’t know if it was playing on the big (ice) sheet or playing Wisconsin yesterday and going at that speed for 60 minutes kind of sucked the life out of us.”
SCSU buzzed around the net after falling behind 2-1, despite having to kill off a minor penalty over that stretch. To Flint, the final couple minutes seemed like 10.
“To see the puck almost go in about six times didn’t do much for my health either,” he said.
A sequence in which SCSU got behind Schelling and directed the puck toward the open net, only to see her dive back into the crease and somehow deny the effort, had to be particularly taxing.
“I don’t know if I was just lucky or not,” Schelling said. “I was trying to stay focused on the puck, don’t ever lose the puck. That’s what I’m telling myself if we have a lot of people in front of the net. I just need to see the puck. As long as I can see the puck, I can still make a save, no matter how it’s going to look. Whereas if I lose sight of the puck, I can’t do anything anymore.”
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes — only the third time all season that St. Cloud State has been even on the scoreboard at the first intermission to go with 16 deficits — Alyssa Wohlfeiler’s power-play goal 10 seconds into period two put the home team in a familiar hole.
“This group hasn’t quit,” St. Cloud coach Jeff Giesen said. “We haven’t quit in a game yet this year.”
Having graduated the lion’s share of their offensive production from last season, they need to learn how to finish scoring chances as well as games. For a team averaging less than one goal scored per game on the season, SCSU’s offense was further hampered by not having a single power-play opportunity in the contest.
“Last year’s team, it was about getting points every weekend,” Giessen said. “This year’s team, it’s about getting better every weekend. I think we’re making some strides and doing some good things.”
The weekend’s action provided Northeastern’s coach with a glimpse of where his team needs to improve to compete with the top teams.
“From where we were a couple years ago, I think we’ve made some steps,” Flint said. “I want to get to that level of a Wisconsin, Minnesota, those schools. I want to get to that level eventually; that’s our goal.”