This post has been updated.
Cornell women’s hockey is going to the Frozen Four.
After watching a two-goal lead slip away in the third period in Boston on Saturday, freshman Gillis Frechette’s game-winning breakaway goal in overtime sent Cornell past Northeastern, 3-2, in the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Owners of a spot in the national semifinals for the first time since 2012, Cornell will head to Hamden, Connecticut, next weekend to face No. 2 seed Minnesota, which beat Princeton, 5-2.
Gillis Frechette. Game-winner.
Frozen Four here we come. 😎 #YellCornell
(📸: Jim Pierce/Cornell Athletics) pic.twitter.com/c7tbX25cDV
— Cornell Big Red (@CornellSports) March 16, 2019
The thrilling win didn’t come as easily for Cornell as one might have expected after the opening period. The Red’s 2-0 lead after 20 minutes held until around the halfway point of the third, when Northeastern nearly ended Cornell’s season with two goals in five minutes.
But 5:19 into overtime, Frechette, who has seven goals this season — all of which have come since Feb. 15 — corralled a long pass from senior Diana Buckley with speed in the neutral zone, broke toward the net and faked out Northeastern goaltender Aerin Frankel. Playing about 15 miles from her Weston, Massachusetts hometown, Frechette sent the puck into the open net — and her team to the Frozen Four.
“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. I just remember being on the bottom of the dog pile and my sister screaming in my face.”
After a dominant first period gave the Red a two-goal lead, the third period was nearly devastating. At the 9:32 mark of the third period, Northeastern’s Veronika Pettey’s rebound goal cut Cornell’s lead to one. With 5:29 left in regulation, Skylar Fontaine ripped a shot past Cornell senior goaltender Marlène Boissannault to tie the game.
Cornell first got on the board with 6:32 left in the opening period as junior forward Amy Curlew redirected home a shot from junior forward and captain Kristin O’Neill. It was Curlew’s fourth goal of the season.
Despite struggling during the ECAC playoffs, Cornell’s power play cashed in at the tail end of the first. Junior Grace Graham tipped a shot from the point past Frankel to make it 2-0.
“We were more of the aggressor in the first period,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “After we got the lead, I felt Northeastern really turned the tables on us and became more of the aggressor.”
— Cornell Video (@CornellVideo) March 16, 2019
Playing without Patty Kazmaier Award finalist freshman Alina Mueller — who missed the game with an injury — the Huskies came out with some speed in the second period, outshooting Cornell, 9-5, after being outshot 11-5 in a first period dominated by the visitors. But the Red’s penalty killers kept Northeastern off the scoreboard on all three of the home team’s second-period opportunities. The Huskieu were 0-for-5 on the power play in the game. Boissannault made a handful of key stops in the second to preserve her team’s two-goal lead. She had 22 total saves. Five of her second-period saves came with her team down a skater.
With a two-goal lead after 20 minutes, Cornell’s suffocating defense went to work. The Red’s 1.68 goals against per game was the second-best mark in the country this season. But the two-goal lead wouldn’t be enough, as the Huskies’ tallies five minutes apart tied the game.
“It happens,” Boissonnault said of Pettey’s goal, which came after Boissannault couldn’t contain an initial shot. “Things like that happen and just have to be able to work with it. And if doesn’t go your way, then you put it aside and be ready for the next shot.”
Boissannault made a huge stop with about 30 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Then, after a bit of back and forth play, Frechette continued her hot scoring streak, tallying the biggest goal of her career to extend Cornell’s already remarkable season.
— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) March 17, 2019
When Cornell last reached the national semifinals in 2012 — a season in which it went 30-5-0 — it faced the Gophers and lost, 3-1. With its 2018-19 season set to last at least one more game, the Red gets a chance to take down the Gophers for a spot in the national championship game.
Cornell’s Frozen Four matchup with Minnesota will take place at 4 p.m. Friday in Hamden. The semifinal winner will take on the victor between Clarkson and Wisconsin in the national championship game on Sunday.