NORTHFIELD, Vt. — It took 95 minutes and 10 seconds to determine tonight’s victor, but the wait was well worth it for the No. 3/3-ranked Elmira College women’s ice hockey team. After trailing by two goals heading into the final period of regulation, the Soaring Eagles rallied with three goals, all from the blade of junior forward Shannon Strawinski ’19, to secure a 3-2 come-from-behind double-overtime victory against No. 2/1-ranked, and four-time defending national champion, Plattsburgh State to send the Elmira women to the 2018 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship game.
Strawinski scored twice in the third period and again 15:10 into the second overtime session to hand the Purple and Gold the 3-2 win. Katie Granato ’19, Louisa Lippiatt Durnell ’18, Rachel Grampp ’18 and Sarah Hughson ’18 were all credited with assists on Strawinski’s trio of goals.
On the defensive side of the ice, senior netminder Kelcey Crawford ’18 finished with 41 saves in a winning effort. The win was Crawford’s 22nd of the season, a figure that ranks first all-time in EC program history.
Elmira held a 46-43 advantage in shots on goal, including a momentum changing 14-4 lead in the third period alone. Neither team was able to capitalize on power-play chances, as Elmira and Plattsburgh both went 0-4 with the extra skater.
Plattsburgh wasted little time to set the tone in today’s contest, as Kayla Meneghin scored just 40 seconds into regulation to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Courtney Moriarty and Mackenzie Millen were credited with assists on the game-opening score.
With the first period coming to a close, Elmira nearly leveled the score at one apiece on a pair of quality chances. After finding a loose puck in the high slot, Granato spun around and rifled a shot that missed wide left, but the puck caromed off of the boards and over to Emma Crocker ’21 just outside the crease. Crocker slid the puck towards the cage, but her attempt also missed wide left, as the period came to a close with the Soaring Eagles trailing, 1-0.
Elmira’s forecheck created a bevy of scoring chances in the opening minutes of the second stanza, but once again the Purple and Gold were stymied by a solid defensive effort from the Cardinals. EC’s best scoring chances came on weak-side rebounds, but several of their attempts missed the mark or were blocked by a sea of white and red jerseys.
It looked as though penalties were going to play a role in generating offense for either side in the middle portion of the period, but both penalty-kill units proved to be up for the challenge, as neither team was able to score with the extra-skater.
Plattsburgh had the best scoring chances on the power play, including a 5-on-3 power-play advantage in which Elmira fended off with heroic blocks and several point-blank range saves from Crawford. However, just as EC killed the 5-on-3 advantage, a shot by Annie Katonka was padded away by Crawford but the rebound trickled out to an unmarked Lizzy Viola, who one-timed it into the open cage for the insurance goal. Erin McArdle was credited with a secondary assist on the score, which sent the Cardinals into the second intermission with a two-goal advantage, 2-0.
After countless chances Elmira was finally able to breakthrough for its first goal of the game 3:06 into the third period on a great hustle play by Granato and Strawinski. On what was nearly an icing call, Granato raced past the final Plattsburgh defenseman and dumped the puck off to Strawinski, who was trailing on the play, and one-timed it over the shoulder of Plattsburgh’s Brooke Wolejko for the score.
Elmira continued to pick up the pressure as the third period progressed and the approach paid off, as Strawinski knotted the score at 2-2 at the 15:53 mark. A pass from Louisa Lippiatt Durnell ’18 found Rachel Grampp ’18 on the left point, where she blasted a slap shot towards the net. Strawinski, who was camped out in front of the cage, re-directed the shot past a screened Wolejko for the game-tying score. Strawinski’s goal held up through the end of the third period and forced overtime.
A one-on-none rush in the opening minute of the overtime period nearly yielded a game-winning goal for the Cardinals, as Meneghin found herself all alone with Crawford. Meneghin carried the puck as close as she could get, but Crawford stuffed her to keep the game tied and extend the overtime session.
On the other hand, Elmira had a near-goal early in the overtime session on a slap shot by Strawinski from the right circle. Her attempt rattled off of the pipe and towards the net, but Wolejko was there to make the save and cover the puck.
Elmira’s power play took the ice at the 17:58 mark on a too many players on the ice penalty by Plattsburgh, which prompted head coach Tim Crowley to call a timeout to organize his team with the extra skater. EC took a bevy of shots in the opening seconds of the power play, but most of their attempts were blocked by Plattsburgh skaters. The Cardinals eventually killed the power play to send today’s contest into a second overtime period.
Fatigue looked to set in for both teams in the second overtime session, but Elmira’s resilience and conditioning proved to be the difference in the end. Sarah Hughson ’18, the 2018 UCHC Player of the Year and CCM First Team All-American, began the scoring play by carrying the puck into the zone with a pair of defensemen tightly guarding her. Hughson skated into the slot, before dumping it back to Strawinski who was trailing on the play. From there, Strawinski sniped the top corner for the game-winning goal and send the Soaring Eagles to their first NCAA Championship game since 2015.
In His Own Words…
Head Coach Tim Crowley reflects on today’s win in the semifinals…
“Once again I thought it was an incredible hockey game and it certainly could have gone either way. For us, I was happy how we played after the first period. We were a little nervous during that first 20 but then I thought we started to play our style of play. Obviously we are not here without these two next to me – Kelcey [Crawford] and Shannon [Strawinski] had tremendous games for us today. Congrats to Plattsburgh on an incredible season, but that program and that coaching staff, I cannot say enough about them. We were fortunate enough to find a way to win today and we look forward to tomorrow playing in the championship game.”
News and Notes
Elmira will play in its first NCAA Championship game since 2015 and its seven in program history.
EC improved to 2-1-0 against Plattsburgh this season and is the only team to beat Plattsburgh twice in a season since 2014-15, when Elmira also beat Plattsburgh twice.
Elmira and Plattsburgh have met in double-overtime before, with Elmira earning a 4-3 victory in the championship game of the 2002 ECAC West Tournament on February 24, 2002.
That bout was the Purple and Gold’s only other double-OT contest.
The Soaring Eagles and Cardinals have been involved in nine overtime games, with the series tied at 3-3-3.
EC has played in an overtime NCAA Tournament game in each of the last six seasons.
The Soaring Eagles own a 3-3-0 record in overtime bouts in the last six NCAA Tournaments.
Elmira went 2-0-2 in overtime bouts this season, with Strawinski netting both game-winners in the victories.
Today’s win is EC’s first this season when trailing after two periods.
Strawinski set a new single-game career-high with three goals for her third career multi-goal performance.
Strawinski has logged at least one point in seven consecutive games.
With an assist on the game-winning goal, Hughson has posted at least one point in nine consecutive games.
In addition to Strawinski and Hughson, Durnell, Granato and Grampp have each earned points in both NCAA Tournament games this season.
Durnell broke a three-way tie with Stefanie McLean ’07 (100) and Brooke Wilgosh ’15 (100) to take sole possession of 10th-place in team history with 101 career points.
Crawford’s 41 saves mark the second-highest total she’s made in a game during her senior season.
With 596 saves this season, Crawford needs just one more to tie Allison Cubberley ’09 for the most in program history and two more stops to establish a new record.
With the win on Friday, Crawford took sole possession of first place on EC’s single-season wins leaderboard with 22, breaking a two-way tie with Cubberley (21).
The Elmira women will be in search of the program’s fourth national title tomorrow night, when the Soaring Eagles battle top-ranked Norwich University. Tomorrow’s NCAA Division III Championship game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield, Vermont.