BOSTON, Mass. -- For the first time since 2012, the Cornell women's hockey team is headed to the Frozen Four. Gillis Frechette scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the Big Red (24-5-6, 17-3-2 ECAC Hockey) over Northeastern, 3-2, in the NCAA quarterfinal Saturday afternoon at Matthews Arena.
"I think each team certainly had their moments," said head coach Doug Derraugh. "Any time you go into overtime it can go either way."
Diana Buckley sent the puck up nearly half the length of the ice ahead to Frechette. The freshman forward from Weston, Massachusetts, faked out Northeastern goaltender Aerin Frankel and guided the puck home to give the Big Red its fourth trip to the Frozen Four in program history.
"I found the puck on my stick and all I saw was me and the goalie," Frechette said. "I remember in pre-scout coach said 'you have to get the goalie moving because she's really good.' At that point I kind of remember blacking out. So, I remember just making the move to my backhand and I remember telling myself 'Do not miss this. You have an open net.' And kind of just hit it in the net and from there I don't remember what happened."
The Big Red struck first 13:28 into the contest. Grace Graham sent a shot that was deflected above the net. Kristin O'Neill swooped in, corralled the puck and brought it around the perimeter of the zone. Meanwhile, Amy Curlew stationed herself in front of the net. O'Neill fired it in and Curlew slightly nicked the puck to sneak it past Aerin Frankel in net.
Cornell added to its lead with a power-play goal with just 31.5 remaining in the opening frame. Grace Grahampassed the puck back towards the blue line and proceeded to plant herself in the slot. Willow Slobodzian got the puck and sent it to her fellow defenseman Devon Facchinato, who sent it in the shot. Graham got a piece of the puck and put it home to give the Big Red the 2-0 advantage.
"For us, we played pretty well especially at the start," Derraugh said. "We were more of the aggressor in the first period. After we got the lead, I felt Northeastern really turned the tables on us and became more of the aggressor."
In the second period, the Big Red's strong defensive effort kept the Huskies off the board. The Cornell penalty kill unit found itself on the ice three times in the second frame, but managed to keep the Huskies of the board. Senior goaltender Marlène Boissonnault led the effort, coming up with several crucial stops. Of her nine saves in the period, five came on the penalty.
Northeastern got on the board with 10:28 left in the third with a goal from Veronika Pettey to make it a one-score game. The Big Red lost possession of the puck in the neutral zone, which led to a Northeastern breakaway. Junior forward Andrea Renner tossed the puck on net and Boissonnault made the initial save, but was unable to corral it in. Pettey charged in, made a diving effort and sent it in for the goal.
"I definitely didn't want it to go in," Boissonault said, speaking of the Huskies' first goal. "It happens. Things like that happen and just have to be able to work with it. And if doesn't go your way, you put it aside and be ready for the next shot."
Northeastern added its second goal of the contest from defenseman Skylar Fontaine with 5:29 left in the contest, which ultimately forced overtime.
The Big Red would be challenged in what remained of regulation. Less than minute after the Huskies evened the tally at two, Maddie Mills was sent to the penalty box for checking. Then, in the final minute, Bossionnault made a few season-extending saves, highlighted by one from her back.
The Dundee, New Brunswick, native netted finished the contest with 22 saves, three of which came in the overtime period.
The Big Red will take on Minnesota in the national semifinal next Friday in Hamden, Connecticut.
NOTES TO KNOW
- This marks the fourth time in school history that the Big Red has advanced to the Frozen Four. Cornell made it three consecutive times from 2010-12.
- The Big Red is now 2-0 against the Hockey East in NCAA quarterfinal games.
- After not scoring a goal in her first 25 contest, Frechette has netted seven goals in her last 10 games including two game-winners.
- Graham registered her sixth multi-point performance of the season.
- Facchinato recorded a career-high two assists.
- Curlew's goal was her fourth of the season.