It seems to be the Golden Age of the young goalie.
You’ve got Minnesota freshman Noora Raty, to whom every incoming puck must seem like a beach ball, because she’s stopping virtually every last one of them. And you’ve got sophomore Hillary Pattenden, whose parsimonious netminding (that means she’s really stingy) is a big reason why Mercyhurst has enjoyed a season-long stranglehold on the top spot of the USCHO poll.
Still, a stastical half-step ahead of those two is one Florence Schelling, who hails from a place so unpronounceable (unless you can say Oberengstringen, which rhymes with Fahrfegnugen, sort of), but whose real home is the Northeastern goal crease.
Schelling (an apt name for a goalie who who sees an abundance of rubber) has backstopped the Huskies to the WHEA lead. She also owns the nation’s lowest (with Raty) goals against average at 0.99 and highest save percentage (.964).
Of course, it would be wrong to confuse Schelling’s youth for inexperience.
She has loads of it – she’s an Olympian for crying out loud – much of it garnered from her five years with the Swiss national squad.
Schelling has chopped nearly a goal and a half off last year’s GAA, and she’s upped her save percentage by nearly .33. The improvement, she said, is attributable to being in better shape.
â€œI worked really hard over the summer. I gained a lot of muscle and conditioning. That was the basis that I was missing before.â€
At issue were her energy and focus levels toward the ends of games. That, afterall, is when many of them are decided. So she hit the gym with a vengeance, largely by herself.
â€œI basically did this on my own. If we’re [the Swiss national team] facing teams like Canada, Sweden, the U.S., I get so many shots. I always think toward the end, that I could be in better shape. I think this year I am in better shape, in the third period of games.â€
The list of notable Swiss goalies is not a lengthy one, although one – Patricia Sautter – did lead Minnesota-Duluth to the NCAA title in 2002. Schelling cites the slow development of women’s hockey in her country as a factor.
â€œ(Female) goalies in Switzerland are allowed to play longer with the guys’ teams,â€ she said. â€œI played with the guys until I came here to college. That’s something that helps every goalie, especially in Switzerland, where women’s hockey is not that popular. You can keep improving at a (high) level.â€
Schelling and her Huskies mates are in for a strong test on Friday, when they visit Boston College. The Huskies currently lead the WHEA with 15 points, three ahead of both BC and BU.
In all, four points separate the top five clubs, with New Hampshire and Providence College – who will play each other Saturday – tied with 11 points.
Still, the Wildcats have at least three games in hand on the other WHEA contenders, and four games on Northeastern.