Claire Santostefano and Brittany Esposito extended their goal streaks to bring No. 7 Northeastern (14-5-1, 8-2-1 Hockey East) out of a 2-0 third-period hole, but Kelly Sabatine's goal at 9:18 of the third period lifted St. Lawrence to a 3-2 victory, ending the Huskies' run of five games unbeaten.
It was the fourth straight game with a goal for Esposito, and the second for Santostefano. Freshman Chloe Desjardins made 23 saves in her third start in an uncharacteristically chippy affair at Matthews Arena, in which the teams amassed 16 penalty minutes apiece.
The teams traded golden opportunities in the game's opening minutes. Rylee Smith broke away from the Northeastern defense and tried to beat Desjardins five hole, but the neophyte was down quickly to make the save. Minutes later, combination play from Esposito and freshman Kendall Coyne set up junior tri-captain Casey Pickett at the doorstep, but her shot was slightly mishit and St. Lawrence netminder Carmen MacDonald made a sprawling save to her right. Today marked the end of Pickett's second six-game point streak of the season.
The Northeastern penalty kill, which entered tonight ranked fifth in the nation, would then be tested after Coyne rode Mel Desrochers into the boards and was sent off for bodychecking at 4:24. The unit stood up in front of Desjardins, however, and the Saints would see no bona fide chances.
But St. Lawrence would not need the extra skater to get out to an early lead. Jamie Goldsmith found Ellie Williams at a tight angle to Desjardins' left, and Williams shot at the near post caught a piece of Desjardins' shoulder as it trickled to put the Huskies in an early hole. It was just the fifth time in 20 games that Northeastern has failed to score the opening goal; they are now 2-3 in those games.
The Northeastern penalty kill would get a shot of its own after sophomore Maggie DiMasi drew a bodychecking call on Vanessa Emond at 12:22. The extra-man opportunity went largely the way of St. Lawrence early power play, however, with the Huskies' failing to garner a full chance against the nation's 30th-ranked penalty kill.
With three minutes to play in the opening period, Sabatine hooked Coyne to the ice as the Huskies were breaking out, but again the power play chance went begging. Northeastern finished the evening 0-5 on the power play.
Both teams were having trouble getting through the neutral zone as the second period began, until finally Jessica Hon gained a step on freshman Ann Doherty, who took an interference minor at 4:56. Pickett and Brooke Fernandez took coincidental roughing minors during the penalty kill, but the Huskies staved off more extended St. Lawrence possession with nary a solid chance yielded.
Doherty left the box and was replaced straightaway by junior Kelly Wallace, but the change was mistimed and Northeastern was hit with a bench minor for too many men on the ice. That penalty kill would be interrupted at 8:29 when Emond went to the box again, this time for slashing. Coyne nearly made the Saints pay when she gained space along the left wing and beat MacDonald over her left shoulder, but the post denied the Huskies an equalizer. Neither team would make good on its abbreviated power play time.
Some five minutes later, St. Lawrence turned a tripping minor on Wallace into a 2-0 lead. After Doherty and Michelle Ng traded coincidental minors roughing and hitting after the whistle, respectively, Amanda Boulier penetrated the Northeastern box, pulling Desjardins out of position, and hit Fernandez, who roofed a backhand wrister off the post and in to double the Saints' lead at 15:03.
The Huskies had not had the better run of play through two periods despite a 19-16 shots advantage, but an early goal sparked the Huskies to an inspired third-period comeback. Just 85 seconds in, MacDonald appeared to have lined up DiMasi's slap shot from the right point, but Santostefano deflected it over her left shoulder to halve the St. Lawrence lead. It was the third marker of the year for Santostefano, and second in two games.
The Saints nearly got right back on the board, but Desjardins' diving effort out past her own hashmarks sent the puck out into the neutral zone and prevented a breakaway chance for Emond.
Northeastern pulled level with 12:28 to play through the red-hot Esposito. After a broken play in the neutral zone skittered the puck onto her stick, the Edmonton, Alberta native gained the zone and whizzed a wrister right past MacDonald's left ear and under the crossbar to even the score at 2-2. It was the fourth straight game with a goal for Esposito, who now has seven on the season to go with 13 assists. She scored her 50th career point yesterday, with a goal in Northeastern's 5-2 win over Clarkson.
Taking her 13th assist on the goal was Coyne, who ended her five-game goalscoring streak but extended her seven-game point streak, and has scored in all but one game this season.
Level terms would be short-lived, however, thanks to some slick work behind the net from Karell Emard. Heading around the back of the net to Desjardins' left, the Saints' leading scorer had the freshman goaltender moving post to post, but suddenly swung around and found Sabatine unmarked to Desjardins' right. Sabatine's easy tap-in gave St. Lawrence a lead it would not relinquish with just over ten minutes to play.
The Saints nearly had a fourth right on the back of their third, when Ng's volley beat Desjardins, but the goal was disallowed for a high-sticking infraction.
Wallace made a return trip to the penalty box at 12:38 after a trip on Smith, allowing St. Lawrence to further salt away the game. The Saints almost put the game out of sight when DiMasi fell down and Jaqueline Wand broke in on Desjardins, but the post kept the Huskies within striking distance as the minutes wound down.
With 3:08 to go, Sabatine took a tripping minor and Doherty came within a fraction of putting the Huskies on level terms once more, but MacDonald barely got a glove on her slap shot and the score remained 3-2
Three penalties in the final 71 seconds gave NU a five-on-three situation as they desperately searched for a third goal. First Emard went off for hooking Colleen Murphy as the two battled for possession, but just as Desjardins was heading to the bench for the extra skater, senior tri-captain Stephanie Gavronsky was whistled for bodychecking to nullify the advantage. Desjardins eventually would make it to the bench and the teams skated five against four; with eight seconds to go, Goldsmith took a slashing call, but a feverish Northeastern attack came to nothing as time ran out.
MacDonald stopped 28 Northeastern shots in her seventh victory of the season. It was a successful two-night stay at Matthews Arena for the Saints, who last night defeated No. 4 Boston College, 2-1, on Northeastern's home rink.
Northeastern will have the weekend to shake off the remainder of its winter rust, and will be back in action on January 15, against Providence at The Bog in Kingston, Mass.