Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Florence Schelling: making her case as the world’s finest

Based on her strong performances in international play and with the Northeastern Huskies of the NCAA, it was only a question of time before Florence Schelling knocked down the door and advised the world that she had arrived. The 2012 IIHF Women’s World Ice Hockey championship was the continuation of events in a year that has become her coming out party.
She ended her senior season with the Northeastern Huskies by leading them to a regular season championship, while placing herself as one of the three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award. While she was privileged to play with some superlative talent at Northeastern (Kendall Coyne, Julia Marty, Casey Pickett), she was the heartbeat of the program.
Some of her highlights at Northeastern included participating in the first women’s outdoor game at Fenway Park (January 8, 2010 versus New Hampshire), playing at Boston Arena (the rink Eddie Shore made famous), and helping the Huskies win the 2012 women’s Beanpot tournament (the Huskies first in over a decade). Her body of work culminated in being named a 2012 All-America selection, and Hockey East Player of the Year. Although her NCAA career has reached its zenith, a new road will be paved as she builds her case as the world’s finest netminder.
By helping Switzerland defeat Finland by a 6-2 tally in the bronze medal game at the 2012 Women’s Worlds, Schelling can proudly wear the first medal won by a Swiss team. While Finland has one of the world’s greatest netminders in Noora Raty (who helped Minnesota win the 2012 NCAA women’s Frozen Four), no one would dispute that Schelling had the better game. Overall, Schelling accumulated 219 saves in five tournament contests, including 50 in the bronze medal game.
As hockey afficionados can attest, this was not the first Women’s Worlds in which Schelling stole the show. At the 2008 Worlds, she was the only goaltender that played in every minute of every game (which included an overtime period and a shootout). In that tournament, she led the Swiss to a fourth-place finish, while sending a message that she was ready for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
In the aftermath of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (where Schelling helped the Swiss to a fifth place finish), the concern of the IIHF was that other countries were not catching up to the United States and Canada in terms of women’s ice hockey supremacy. What Schelling proved at the 2012 Worlds is that the future for the less competitive countries shall be defined in the quality of its goaltending.
After her superlative senior season, Schelling became one of the first players to declare herself eligible for the CWHL Draft. For all the New England sports fans that feared Schelling may return to Switzerland (and the Canadian sports fans who never had the opportunity to see her), she will continue to share her great goaltending gifts with North American fans for years to come.

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