It was overtime in the NCAA quarterfinal between Northeastern and Cornell and the Big Red’s Gillis Frechette was skating down the middle of the ice at Matthews Arena.
“I looked up and there was no defense in front of me,’’ she said.
Frechette said she started screaming for the puck, took a deft pass from Diana Buckley and charged in, pulling the puck to her backhand to tuck the winning goal behind Northeastern’s Aerin Frankel at 5:19 of overtime. ECAC regular-season champion and sixth-ranked Cornell claimed a 3-2 victory over Hockey East regular-season and tournament champion Northeastern, ranked No. 3 in the nation, before 1,401, a women’s hockey record for Matthews.
NU has been here before, on the edge of a trip to the Frozen Four, but all have ended with disappointment. This was its 12th game this season against a top-10 opponent, having stacked its schedule to play the toughest teams it could. The result was its third trip to the NCAA tournament in four years, but advancing further was not meant to be.
“Disappointed with the outcome but I liked how the team competed. They battled,’’ coach Dave Flint said. “That’s kind of been our M.O. of how we’ve played all season and it was nice to see we didn’t deviate from that script.’’
The early news for Northeastern was not good. Freshman sensation Alina Mueller was scratched, her fractured right hand in a hard cast. The Swiss Olympian and the team’s leading scorer suffered the injury in the overtime victory against Boston College for the Hockey East tournament championship.
NU is the only team this season with five 30-plus point scorers, but Mueller took 21 goals and 51 points to the sideline with her. Inevitably, Northeastern came out flat in the first period, struggling to clear its defensive zone.
Amy Curlew took advantage, circling through the zone until she reached the left circle and fired. The puck hit Frankel in the midsection and fell behind her at 13:28. Cornell came into the game with a 16-0-1 record when scoring first.
The Big Red boosted their lead at 19:28 on a power-play score. With Skylar Fontaine in the box for body checking, Cornell’s Devon Facchinato took a shot from the right point and Grace Graham tipped it from in front for her 11th goal of the season.
Cornell (24-5-6) outshot NU, 11-5, in the first but the Huskies (27-6-5) picked up their pace in the second period and tested Cornell goalie Marlene Boissonnault with three power-play opportunities. But Cornell’s penalty kill has been the best in the nation since Jan. 12, going 58 of 62 before Saturday and 5 of 5 against the Huskies on Saturday.
In the third, Cornell stopped taking penalties and Northeastern was still searching for a shot that could get through the thick Big Red defense. They finally got a chance when Andrea Renner scooped up a loose puck just outside the blue line and rushed in for a shot. Boissonnault made the save, but Veronika Pettey was rushing in, too, and she batted the rebound into the net while fully outstretched along the ice at 9:32.
Fontaine tied it up 4:59 later, carrying the puck into Cornell’s zone and shooting it between the legs of an onrushing defenseman and past Boissonnault at 14:31. It was her 12th goal of the year and 50th point of her career.
. . .
Elizabeth Giguere scored at 14:38 of overtime as fourth-ranked Clarkson (30-7-2) ousted fifth-ranked Boston College from the NCAA tournament with a 2-1 victory in a quarterfinal in Potsdam. N.Y. Daryl Watts scored her 22nd goal of the year for BC (26-12-1) in the first period, but Josiane Pozzebon tied it up at 16:57 of the third.
“Our seniors have given a lot to our program,” coach Katie Crowley said. “They’ve raised it to a new level and changed it for the better.”
BC has made nine straight NCAA tournament appearances, with this senior class going 40-1 as freshmen in 2015-16 — the Eagles lost the national title game to Minnesota. BC had won five straight Hockey East regular-season titles before this season, as well as tournament crowns in 2016 and 2017.