BURLINGTON – The one tenet that holds true for all European teams at the Women’s Worlds is that you’re only as good as your goaltending. In the case of Switzerland, that goalie is Florence Schelling, who is coming off an historic season with the Northeastern University Huskies in which she was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for MVP of women’s hockey in the NCAA.
Kazmaier came to the Huskies the old-fashioned way—she was recruited. “A few schools contacted me a few years ago,” she began, “but when I went to Northeastern to look at the school, I really liked the city and the fact that the school was right in downtown Boston. I also liked the school program, a five-year co-op program in business.”
That five-year program has one down side—her NCAA eligibility expires after four, and she is now without a team. “I’m doing my fifth year at Northeastern, but I’m doing one of my co-ops from July to December in Montreal,” she said. “I don’t have a team yet for next year, though.”
When asked about the possibility of joining Montreal’s entry in the CWHL, Schelling smiled. “I’d like to, but I think they have some pretty good goalies.”
Schelling is one of several European goalies to play in NCAA in recent years and is part of a growing trend of Europeans looking to take hockey more seriously by training in North America.
“For me, coming to Northeastern was perfect,” she explained. “Back home, I didn’t think I could develop further than where I was. I had to decide whether I wanted to go to university or play hockey as a professional, so I thought the only way I could do both was to go to college in the U.S.”
Being recruited was the easiest way for Schelling to make her way to the NCAA. She played in her first WW games in 2004 at age 15 and played very well on a weak team. “I think it’s easier for a goalie to show her skills at a World Championship than for a skater, especially if you’re a starting goalie. The scouts can see you’re a top goalie for your country,” she explained.
Incredibly, Schelling spoke little English when she moved to the U.S., but she learned the language quickly. “My English was pretty basic when I came here. But it’s really just practice and studying. I passed my SAT in English, so there was no problem.”
Schelling has improved every year at Northeastern, and the culmination of her career came this past season. She started 30 of the team’s 33 games, had a record of 20-6-4 (W-L-T), and a sparkling goals-against average of 1.42. The other Kazmaier finalists were Americans—Brianna Decker and Jocelyne Lamoureux (Decker won). Her NU teammate Kendall Coyne made the long list of nominees and plays for Team USA.
The heavy workload was no surprise to Schelling given her experience and abilities. “I wasn’t surprised,” she admitted. “We had four goalies, but none were at the level I was at yet. Two were freshmen, so they got a little ice time, but I expected to play a lot.”
Being an older player also carries with it some responsibilities, and Schelling was happy to be an amigo to her blue-ice brethren.
“I tried to help them out, maybe not like a coach exactly, but whenever I saw they were doing something that I wouldn’t exactly do, I’d suggest trying to do things a bit differently. I don’t like correcting people. I feel like my style is a bit different from most people. A lot of people want to know who I model my style after, but I don’t really have one person like that. I look at a lot of goalies and take a little thing from each one. That’s my style!”
Schelling has now played in the last two Olympics and this is her sixth Women’s Worlds. On the club team front, she’s looking for a place to play in October, and on the national team front she has two goals, the immediate one of doing well here in Burlington, and the long range one that features five rings and a distant Russian city.
“We want to make the top six again. That’s really our main goal here this year,” she said. “My big goal is to try out for the Sochi Olympics. Whatever happens after that, I don’t know.”