Florence Schelling Emerges as the World's Finest Women's Hockey Player for 2012

Mark StaffieriContributor IIDecember 12, 2012

Photo by Jodi Hilton for the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/07/sports/hockey/07goalie.html?_r=0
Photo by Jodi Hilton for the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/07/sports/hockey/07goalie.html?_r=0

In a year that saw women’s hockey players like Meghan Agosta (broke the CWHL single season scoring record), Caroline Ouellette (scored the game winning goal at the 2012 IIHF Worlds) and Kelly Stack (2012 Bob Allen Award winner) solidify their legacies, a goaltender from Switzerland emerged as the most prolific women’s ice hockey player during the year 2012. Hailing from Zurich, Florence Schelling had a year to remember, as she excelled at three different levels of hockey.

Her remarkable year started at the NCAA level. As the starting goaltender for the Northeastern Huskies, 2012 marked her senior campaign with the Boston based club. Named to the All-American team, she was also Hockey East’s 2012 goaltending champion. Schelling ensured that she left her mark on the program as she continued to re-write the Huskies record books.

Throughout her distinguished career at Northwestern, the other Boston area universities (Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University) recruited elite talent, raising the level of competition to unseen levels. Schelling excelled under the competitive pressures and her hard work paid off in 2012.

As one of the greatest players in Huskies history, Schelling helped the Huskies reach two significant accomplishments this year. Her first great achievement was backstopping the Huskies to the 2012 Beanpot Women’s Championship, their first since 1993. The second part of her remarkable year with Northwestern came with the Huskies clinching the 2011-12 Hockey East Regular season championship.

Although Schelling and the Huskies were unable to duplicate their success in the Hockey East Postseason tournament, the regular season title was a perfect ending to a career that may never be duplicated by another Northeastern goaltender.

Fittingly, a scoreless tie on February 17, 2012 against Providence netminder Genevieve Lacasse may have been the greatest match of her career. Both backstops combined for 80 saves through three periods, and an overtime frame. As the two goaltenders were both in their senior season, they had spent their entire NCAA careers rivaling each other’s great skills. The 0-0 contest was a last hurrah for Hockey East fans who were spoiled by four years of superlative goaltending. 

Despite the Huskies not qualifying for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Schelling continued to make her case as the world’s finest. Heading into the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Burlington, Vermont, the Swiss national team was not a favorite to earn a medal. Despite Schelling’s performances in world championships past, it would have been easy to look at a team like Finland (who claimed bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, and second place in the 2012 IIHF 12 Nations Tournament) as a pre-tournament favorite.

With Noora Raty between the pipes for Finland, the Finns seemed like the only European team capable of having any chance at competing with the likes of United States or Canada. By the end of the tournament, it was Raty, and not Schelling out of the medals.

Her accomplishment was nothing short of extraordinary as she made an eye-opening 50 saves in the bronze medal game versus Noora Raty and her favored Finland team. Although Switzerland was down by a 2-1 score, the Swiss came back as Schelling made 24 saves in the second period to frustrate the Finns. Schelling established herself as an elite international goaltender by leading Switzerland to the bronze medal, their first in the history of the IIHF Women’s Worlds.

In the 2012 CWHL Draft, Schelling was drafted in the fourth round (20th overall) by the Montreal Stars. Other goaltenders drafted ahead of her included Hillary Pattenden and Charline Labonte. With the Stars already having Kim St. Pierre and Jenny Lavigne (who won the 2012 Clarkson Cup for Montreal) on their roster, Montreal appointed Charline Labonte their starter.

With the numbers game placing Schelling on the shelf, Montreal loaned her to the Brampton Thunder for the remainder of the season. With Montreal starting their season with a record of 1-3-0, they were wise to retain her rights for the 2013-14 season.

While the loan to Brampton was the most surprising move of the 2012-13 CWHL season, it provided a rebuilding hockey club with a world class goaltender. Schelling won her CWHL debut on October 28 against Team Alberta in a convincing 8-2 win.

Through her first four games of the season, Schelling went 2-2-0 with a 2.98 goals against average and an .857 save percentage.

A December 8 contest would see Schelling stand between the pipes against the team that drafted her; the Montreal Stars. Although Brampton lost the match, Schelling gave a valiant performance. With Brampton getting into penalty trouble, she neutralized a 5 on 3 Stars power play, while making 48 saves.

Sharing starting duties with former Canadian national team member Liz Knox, the two have kept Brampton in the thick of the playoff race.