Potsdam, NY – Freshman Elizabeth Giguere scored on a backhand shot late in overtime to help lead the Clarkson University Women’s Hockey team to a 2-1 overtime victory over Mercyhurst University in the NCAA Quarterfinals in front of 1383 fans Saturday afternoon at Cheel Arena.
The Golden Knights advanced to their third straight Frozen Four and fourth overall with the win. Clarkson, 34-4-1, will take on Ohio State, 24-10-4, in the semifinals next Friday in Minneapolis, MN. Mercyhurst saw its season end at 18-15-4.
Giguere’s game-winner helped Clarkson avoid becoming the first top-seeded team to lose in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The goal seemingly came out of nowhere as what appeared to be a harmless turnover in the opposite end led to two quick passes to Giguere close to the Mercyhurst goal. Savannah Harmon picked up a loose puck near the boards and sent a long pass up to Pejzlova close to the blue line. The sophomore center then tipped a pass forward to Giguere, who held on to the puck instead of dishing it back to Pejzlova, surprising Mercyhurst’s Kennedy Blair. The Lakers goaltender looked to protect the near post, but Giguere was patient enough to get slide in front for a backhanded shot into a mostly unguarded net at the 16:52 mark of overtime.
An energetic crowd had a lot to cheer for in the early going, but no results followed. Mercyhurst was whistled for a high sticking penalty just 23 seconds into the first period, but the Knights could muster just three total shots, with only one soft shot on net getting through. Five minutes later, Clarkson was on the power play once again, but got nothing out of the extra-skater except for a Savannah Harmon attempt from between the red and blue lines. After a brief four-on-four, the Lakers found themselves with a power play chance, but they, too, came up empty, with only one shot making it through, and that was a shot that was redirected off the boards.
Midway through the first period, Clarkson began to assert itself offensively, getting four solid chances in three minutes. Rhyen McGill had a good luck up close, but her backhand went wide, and Josiane Pozzebon’s hard wrist shot from the top of the near circle also went wide. Ninety seconds after McGill’s attempt, Elizabeth Giguere sidestepped a defender in front but her direct shot was denied. A minute later, an Amanda Titus wrister was also saved.
Late in the period, Mercyhurst was nicked for its third penalty, a hooking call, with 45.8 seconds to go. The Lakers held Clarkson to just one attempt on net and escaped the first period still in a scoreless tie with the Knights.
At the start of the second period, Clarkson nearly broke the shutout with some passes through the crease, but both could not find their intended target on the opposite side. Just a minute in, a slow moving pass from Loren Gabel floated over to Elizabeth Giguere on the opposite side of the crease, but the pace of the puck had her timing off and Giguere missed the net all together. Three-plus minutes later it was Giguere that sent a pass through the crease to linemate Michaela Pejzlova, but the sophomore was moving too fast and couldn’t gather the puck for a solid shot.
Most of the second period saw blocked shots or soft attempts turned aside easily, but Mercyhurst finally broke through late in the frame. Emma Nuutinen picked up the puck near the boards just inside the blueline and sent a pass to defenseman Molly Blasen at the point. Blasen took a hard shot that made it through most of the traffic, and the attempt was then redirected by Brooke Hartwick, who was standing just outside the crease. The puck trickled over the goal line to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead at the 19:40 mark of the second period.
Despite the one-goal deficit through 40 minutes, Clarkson didn’t panic and quickly tied things up in the third period. At the 5:17 mark, Mercyhurst was called for a holding penalty, and only 13 seconds into the extra-skater chance, Clarkson knotted the score 1-1 with the goal coming from Pejzlova. Junior Loren Gabel corralled the puck at the bottom of the near circle and sent a pass out to Savannah Harmon at the point. Harmon then slid the puck over to Pejzlova, who took a few steps in and fired a wrist shot past Kennedy Blair.
Down the stretch of the third stanza, each team went up and down the ice, but few of their chances made it onto the opponents’ goal. The two squads combined for just nine shots on goal in the third, despite Clarkson enjoying a late power play chance. Giguere had one last chance for the Knights in the waning seconds, but her attempt went high and wide.
An even overtime saw both teams with a few narrow misses, and Clarkson enjoyed a great chance with about seven minutes remaining when Gabel caused a turnover in the Mercyhurst end and quickly found Giguere with a centering pass, but the freshman’s shot was high. That was the best chance in the period until Giguere finished the game with her heroics.
Clarkson ended the game with a modest 32-28 advantage in shots. Blair stopped 30 shots and Shea Tiley made 27 saves for the Knights in the victory. The Knights finished 1-for-5 on the power play and the Lakers were scoreless in their extra-skater chance.