No. 9 Northeastern (13-4-1, 8-2-1 WHEA) will head into the winter break on a high note after its second win in eight days over No. 10 Boston University (10-9-1, 5-4-0 WHEA). The Huskies' top line of junior tri-captain Casey Pickett, freshman Kendall Coyne and junior Brittany Esposito combined for six points in the 4-1 victory at Matthews Arena.
A week removed from shutting out the Terriers in a 2-0 decision, senior Florence Schelling stopped 29 BU shots to earn her 12th win. The triumph sends NU on holiday at the top of the Hockey East table, with 17 points from 11 games.
The Huskies took the game's first chance just 90 seconds in, when junior Rachel Llanes blocked a shot to lead to a two on one, but BU sophomore Kerrin Sperry denied her wrist shot and a rebound attempt from junior Kelly Wallace. It was a strong start to the game for Sperry, who authored the last shutout by any goaltender against Northeastern one year ago tonight.
The Terriers nearly leapt in front right on the back of that chance through Louise Warren. After a turnover in the neutral zone led to a two on one, Isabel Menard found Warren in the slot but senior Florence Schelling kept matters deadlocked with a tidy pad save.
The bulk of the play remained in the BU end, however, and it wouldn't be long before Northeastern capitalized on its momentum. Hard forechecking from Llanes forced a turnover behind the BU net; the San Jose, Calif. native's wraparound attempt was stoned by Sperry, but the rebound came right to freshman Lucie Povova, who slid in her fifth of the season at 8:37 to start the Huskies off on the right foot.
Northeastern would double its advantage just 81 seconds later after an outstanding individual effort from Coyne. With BU taking possession in its own zone, Coyne deflected a breakout pass to and took control below the right faceoff circle. Facing an impossible angle, Coyne clanged in a tracer off Sperry's near post to put the Huskies up 2-0 just after the midway point of the first period.
Although they failed to score in the opening frame, BU took the bulk of the chances as the period came to a close. Just after Coyne's marker, Warren deftly played Kaleigh Fratkin in on net, but Schelling was again up to the task with a pad save. At 15:47 Dani Rylan went to the box for hooking, but Schelling was wise to the Terriers' best chance, a point-blank effort from Taylor Holze after a scrum in front of the cage. After Holze's chance went begging, the Northeastern penalty kill - which entered tonight ranked fourth in the nation - stood up to maintain the two-goal lead.
The Huskies entered the second period on a minute-long power play after a line-changing gaffe led to a too many men on the ice minor on BU. The Terriers' second-ranked responded in kind however with a routine kill to keep themselves within striking distance as the second period began.
Northeastern would not need an extra skater, however, to put the game out of sight after four minutes of the middle frame. Esposito's chip up the half-boards found Coyne's stick in the neutral zone, and the Palos Heights, Ill. native immediately turned and fired a rocket to streaking senior tri-captain Stephanie Gavronsky. Played straight through on goal, Gavronsky deked to her forehand side, and with the goal at her mercy eased in her sixth of the year.
With eight career goals entering the season, Gavronsky is now just two goals from matching her scoring output from her first three years at Northeastern as a senior. The goal also marks a new single-season high for the Sherwood Park, Alberta native, who netted five times as a junior in 2010-11.
For Coyne, who finished with a goal and two assists, the helper gave her at least two points in each of her last five games. She leads the team with 14 goals and 25 points, and has scored a point in 15 of her 16 games this season.
Northeastern ground down the pace as the period wore on, with both teams combining for just 17 shots through 17 minutes in the period, but the Huskies offered BU a way back after a too many men infraction and freshman Ann Doherty's tripping minor occurred within 14 seconds of one another. Facing 1:46 of five on three action, the Huskies packed the slot area, forcing the BU power play to take aim, and picked up well-earned penalty kills after blocking five shots and keeping themselves three goals to the good as the second period came to a close.
Gavronsky found herself on either end of two penalties to begin the final stanza. Carly Warren trip sent the Northeastern tri-captain crashing into the side boards, but the Huskies squandered the power play chance.
Boston University did pull one back seven minutes into the third period after a tenacious forecheck from Canada international Jenn Wakefield. The Terriers' leading scorer wrested the puck from Northeastern's defense behind Schelling's net, and after whirling around the side boards up to the right point, unleashed a wicked wrister that Kayla Tutino deflected over Schelling's right shoulder to give BU a glimmer of hope at 6:36.
The Terriers' tails were up some 90 seconds later when Gavronsky found herself in the box for interference. Once again, however, the NU penalty kill rose to the occasion, snuffing out the threat and nipping any threat of a BU one-two punch in the bud.
Northeastern gathered itself once Gavronsky left the box, keeping the Terriers at bay until its sterling top line could find another opportunity to shine. That chance came at 16:51, when Coyne and Pickett zinged the puck through BU's defensive zone to an open Esposito, who slid in her fifth marker of the year to kill the game off for the Huskies. Esposito, who with Pickett leads the team with 13 assists, has now scored in two straight games entering the Christmas break. The assist extends Pickett's run of five straight games with a point.
Sophomore Sonia St. Martin went to the box with just over a minute to play, but BU could muster little to counterpunch in the face of a Northeastern penalty kill that finished 5-5 on the evening. The kill unit is back on the right track heading into the Christmas holiday, after having yielded power play strikes in three of Northeastern's last four games.
The Huskies will head into the break on a run of four games unbeaten (3-0-1) after having dropped three straight before Thanksgiving. Coach Dave Flint's crew will next hit the ice on Thursday, January 5, in a 3 p.m. tilt against Clarkson at Matthews Arena.