When the Connecticut Huskies and Northeastern Huskies played each other on January 24, 2009, no one could have conceived what was to follow. The events of the match were documented in a well-researched biography about Eddie Shore by C. Michael Hiam (published in 2010).
As the match was contested in Matthews Arena, the oldest multi-purpose indoor athletic facility in the world, Eddie Shore played there from 1926 to 1928. On page 311 of the biography, Hiam documents the drama and excitement that emanated from the pivotal contest. Hiam explains how Connecticut’s Michelle Binning had her shot stopped by Florence Schelling, but Dominique Thibault managed to get the game winning tally. Schelling would be described as that steady Olympian while Dominique was dubbed as Dangerous (for her great scoring ability).
The January 24th contest was the 11th appearance of Schelling’s NCAA career as she logged 59:47 of ice time. In that rookie season, Schelling appeared in 19 games and compiled a win-loss record of 5-12-1. Despite the dozen losses, she had a respectable 2.24 goals against average, and a.933 save percentage. Dominique Thibault was in her final season with Connecticut and was the Huskies leading scorer. In 33 games, she recorded 24 goals and 14 assists, for a 38 point campaign, which saw her named a Hockey East Second Team All-Star.
While the match resulted in a weekend sweep of Northeastern, the prior contest on January 23rd held its own drama. Contested in Storrs, Connecticut, Dominique Thibault logged a hat trick in a 4-0 drubbing of Northeastern. The netminder for that contest was Leah Sulyma, who made national news during the 2007 Canada Winter Games. As a member of the Northwest Territories hockey contingent, she made 90 saves in a loss to Manitoba and 104 saves in a loss to Alberta.
The irony of the contest at Matthews Arena being documented in Shore’s biography is that both Schelling and Thibault would attend Montreal Stars training camp in September 2012. Suddenly, the steady Olympian and Dangerous Dominique went from rivals to teammates.
Having attended a Montreal Stars match in which they played the French National Team (a contest that saw Thibault contribute with 4 points in a lopsided Stars win), and the Stars training camp (of which Schelling was one of four goalies that included Charline Labonte, Jenny Lavigne, and Kim St. Pierre), both were gracious enough to allow me their time.
“I feel pretty good. I did not know my name was in the book. To be remembered as a player playing against Northeastern is pretty cool,” stated Thibault. “It is kind of special. An honor to be named in his book.” Having transferred to the Clarkson Golden Knights for her final season (which saw Thibault log the second 40 point season of her NCAA career), a potential rivalry with Schelling never developed.
Like new teammate Thibault, Schelling was not aware that she had been featured in the Shore biography. “I had no idea. This is a great honor.” As I showed her the page from the book and read a passage from it, Schelling gleamed with a smile of great pride. On a personal note, I ran into Thibault a few weeks later at an Ottawa Gee Gees women’s hockey exhibition game. She mentioned to me that she had the chance to speak to Schelling, and that she had purchased a copy.
With an ever growing library of books on the sport of hockey, finding material on women’s ice hockey can be a tireless search. The reference to Schelling and Thibault is a pleasant surprise that may serve as one that not only contributes to the Stars team building (as they pursue an unprecedented third consecutive Clarkson Cup) but forge a new friendship.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.”