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Bragging rights on ice

Photo by Jim Pierce.

Northeastern University women’s hockey coach Dave Flint has designed a defensive-minded game plan for beating the No. 4 Boston College Eagles, who are undefeated in three games against the No. 6 Huskies this season.

The strategy will be tested tonight when the Hockey East rivals face off in the semifinal round of the 34th annual Women’s Beanpot Tournament at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena. The winner will play for the Beanpot Championship on Feb. 7.

Prior to the matchup, Flint described the principles of the defensive approach. “We can’t give them a lot of space in the neutral zone because they attack with speed,” he explained. “We can’t be afraid to have our defense step up into the play to limit their chances.”

Junior forward Casey Pickett, who has 15 goals and 21 assists in 25 games this season, agreed with her coach. As she put it, “They have a lot of quick forwards, so the better we are at slowing them down, the less chances they’ll have in front of the net.”

Northeastern has a good reason to believe in its defense: Over the last 11 games, the Huskies have only allowed 16 goals.

Senior goaltender Florence Schelling is a big reason for the team’s success. The puck-stopper is toting a stingy 1.54 goals against average and .944 save percentage in 22 games this season.

“The most successful team is the team with the hot goalie,” Flint said. “We have to rely on her.”

Added Picket: “She’s the backbone of our team and keeps us in a lot of games.”

The Huskies, who average 3.6 goals per game, can also win by putting the puck in the net.

Pickett and freshman forward Kendall Coyne, who leads the team in scoring with 22 goals and 17 assists in only 23 contests, have accounted for roughly 33 percent of the team’s offensive output.

“Teams have taken notice,” Flint said of his offensive stars. “They’re so fast and so dynamic.”

He has lofty expectations for the remainder of the season, like winning Hockey East and making a deep run through the NCAA Tournament, which begins in March.

“I think we realize that we can beat anybody,” said Flint, noting that his team has developed the confidence to match up against any club in the country. “We’re a lot better now than we were earlier in the season.”