BOSTON, Mass. - The Northeastern women's hockey team (19-13-2) scored two goals in the final three minutes to rally past Connecticut, 2-1, in a dramatic Hockey East Quarterfinal game on Friday night at Matthews Arena.
Trailing 1-0 in the final minutes of the game, the Huskies scored twice in a span of 1:23 to advance to the Hockey East Semifinals for the third time in the last four seasons.
Senior Sonia St. Martin (Pierrefonds, Quebec) scored the game-tying power-play goal with 2:24 remaining on a shot from the right point. Senior Brittany Esposito (Edmonton, Alberta) then scored the game-winner with 1:01 showing on the clock with a snipe from between the circles to give NU its 11th straight win over Connecticut (9-24-2).
Northeastern held a 36-27 edge in shots and went 1-for-5 on the power play. Junior Chloe Desjardins (Saint-Prosper, Quebec) made 26 saves to improve to 19-12-2. UConn's Elaine Chuli was the hard-luck loser, falling to 7-16-1 despite making 34 saves and holding a shutout for the first 57:36 of the game.
The Huskies came out flying in the first period, firing 13 shots at the UConn cage in a determined effort to score the game's opening goal. Senior Katie MacSorley (Stratford, Ontario) twice beat Chuli on wrist shots from the left circle, but on both occasions the puck struck the pipe and stayed out. Esposito also generated a quality scoring chance when she deked into the low slot and tested Chuli with a wrister that the UConn netminder gloved to freeze the action.
Despite controlling the run of play, Northeastern was fortunate not to fall behind midway through the opening frame when UConn's Sarah MacDonnell raced in alone on a shorthanded breakaway. MacDonnell waited for Desjardins to go down, but the NU goaltender stood her ground as MacDonnell's wrister sailed harmlessly over the net.
Northeastern went back on the offensive early in the second stanza when redshirt senior Kelly Wallace (Libertyville, Ill.) teed up junior Colleen Murphy (Cary, N.C.) for a blast from the left circle that Chuli blocked to the corner. Minutes later, Chuli made an alert play to dive on top of a loose puck on the doorstep with Esposito waiting to pounce.
Desjardins then matched Chuli with a tremendous pad stop on Emily Snodgrass at the side of the net with 6:20 left in the period. Desjardins got just enough of the puck to earn a stoppage in play before UConn's Brittany Berisoff poked it home after the whistle.
The scoreless deadlock extended into the third period until MacDonnell broke the tie just over six minutes into the frame. Desjardins initially made a save on Michela Cava, but the rebound bounced in the air and landed in the crease amidst heavy traffic. UConn's Rebecca Fleming got a stick on it first, but it was MacDonnell who was able to poke it into the back of the cage to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at the 6:08 mark.
Northeastern was awarded two power plays midway through the final period, but the Connecticut defense dug in and protected the net, frustrating the hosts in their bid to find an equalizer.
With 2:31 remaining, UConn's Leah Burress was whistled for tripping, sending NU to its third power play of the period. Northeastern head coach Dave Flint promptly called a timeout to draw up a play in a last-ditch attempt to knot the score.
And knot the score they did. After a key faceoff win by freshman Hayley Scamurra (Williamsville, N.Y.), St. Martin collected the puck and drifted toward the right point. St. Martin then unleashed a low wrister that found its way inside the left post to tie the game at one-apiece with 2:24 showing on the clock.
The game appeared to be headed for overtime until an incredible play by Esposito gave the Huskies the lead for good. Some great work on the forecheck by Scamurra and senior Claire Santostefano (Wilmette, Ill.) forced a UConn turnover along the left boards. Esposito scooped up the disc and quickly cut to the slot, before unleashing a deadly wrister that beat Chuli and sent the Northeastern bench into a frenzy with 1:01 remaining.
But it was not over yet. A penalty to freshman Heather Mottau (Milton, Mass.) with 39 seconds left gave UConn one last chance to extend the game. The visiting Huskies pulled Chuli to make it a 6-on-4 advantage, but Northeastern was able to kill the clock and escape with a dramatic victory on home ice.
Northeastern will now head to Hyannis, Mass., for the Hockey East Semifinals on Mar. 8. The third-seeded Huskies will be joined by No. 1 Boston College after the Eagles dismantled No. 8 New Hampshire, 8-1, on Friday night. The other two semifinalists will be decided on Saturday when No. 2 Boston University hosts No. 7 Providence and No. 4 Vermont hosts No. 5 Maine.