Pine Valley, NY — It took just 26 seconds into the overtime period of today’s NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal matchup for Erin Weston ’15 to score the game-winner as the Elmira College women’s ice hockey team edged visiting Trinity College, 3-2. With the win, Elmira advances to the NCAA Tournament Semifinals for the second time in three years.
“We knew we were going to be in for a battle” said Head Coach Dean Jackson ’03. “I thought it was a really gutsy effort from our ladies. I thought we played well for 60 minutes.”
Weston’s game-winning power-play goal was scored off of a rebound, a shot initially taken from the point by Elmira’s Brooke Wilgosh ’15. Wilgosh’s shot made its way through traffic and ricocheted off the Trinity goaltender’s right pad, allowing a crashing Weston to bury the shot into the open net for the game-winner.
“We finally got it on the power play” said Weston. “Brooke shot it and there was a loose puck, I just came in from the blue line, luckily got a stick on it put it up and luckily it went in.”
Elmira did not make it easy on themselves in today’s quarterfinal game, as Trinity jumped out to a 2-0 lead, despite the Bantams being outshot 37-to-20. Adding to Elmira’s struggles was a bit of bad luck on the power play, as EC failed to convert on their first seven opportunities. Thankfully, the Soaring Eagles converted on their final power-play chance on Weston’s game-winner.
“I’m just so proud of that power-play unit” said Jackson. “We had been stymied all game, Trinity had done a phenomenal job shutting us down, and obviously our power play has been an instrumental part of our success this season. We saw a chink in the armor so to speak from the last power play, and we drew it up and they executed it to a “T”. It was unbelievable.”
The first period saw both teams playing at a very fast pace, with Elmira holding a 10-to-5 advantage in shots on goal. Elmira also put their power-play unit on the ice two different times but would come up empty handed both times, thanks to a superb effort between the pipes by Trinity’s Sydney Belinskas.
Belinskas made 10 saves in the period to keep Elmira’s high-powered offense scoreless through the first 20 minutes, allowing the Bantams to eventually take a 1-0 lead at the 14:53 mark on a goal by Lucy Robinson. Emma Tani setup the goal as she dumped the puck into Elmira’s zone, which found Cheeky Herr behind the cage. Herr wrestled for the puck with Elmira’s Rachel Grampp ’18, but Herr would quickly come away with the puck and find Robinson in the slot, where she would punch-in the game’s opening goal.
Elmira continued to dominate in the shot category in the second period, outshooting Trinity 16-to-8. Despite Elmira’s advantage in shots, the Bantams would once again make the most of their limited chances as Trinity’s leading scorer, Cheeky Herr, scored her 20th goal of the season just 4:07 into the period. Herr scored her goal by wrapping around the net, squeezing a shot between Kyle Nelson’s pad and the pipe for the score. Tani was credited with an assist on the goal, her second of the evening.
With 4:26 remaining in the second period, Elmira scored their first goal of the game, thanks to a great heads up play by Anna Tude ’17. Tude began the scoring play by winning an in-zone faceoff, with the puck making its way to Grampp at the point. From there, Grampp fired a shot on goal, one that Belinskas turned away. However, Tude would find the rebound and bury a wrist shot top shelf for the score, cutting Trinity’s lead to 2-1.
Trinity clung to their one-goal lead for a good part of the third period, as Belinskas continued her strong play in net making another eight saves. With 2:04 remaining in regulation and EC trailing by a single goal, a checking penalty on Elmira’s Phoebe Piku ’16 looked to all but seal Trinity’s first NCAA Tournament win. However, 35 seconds later, Trinity’s Shelby Lane was called for an interference penalty, keeping Elmira’s hopes of a late comeback alive.
With a player from each team in the penalty box, the ice opened up for some offense to be played for the Soaring Eagles, who desperately searched for a game-tying goal. Elmira assistant captain, Brooke Wilgosh ’15, answered the call as she punched-in the game-tying goal with 1:12 remaining in regulation. Louisa Lippiatt Durnell ’18 created the scoring play as she sent a pass cross-ice to Wilgosh, who one-timed a shot at close range into the open side of the netting, tying the game at 2-2.
As regulation came to a close, Trinity made one last push to end today’s quarterfinal game with a win, and nearly did so as a scrum developed in front of Elmira’s net in the final seconds. In the scrum, Trinity was able to put a pair of shots on goal and most frightening to Elmira’s fans was the fact that the puck sat in front of the net, unattended by a player from either team, all but asking for the game-winner to be scored. Elmira would eventually clear the zone and take their 2-2 tie into the overtime period.
Elmira began the overtime period looking to put a quick end to today’s game as just 29 seconds remained on their power-play opportunity from the previous period. The Soaring Eagles would only need 26 of the power play’s 29 seconds to find the back of the net, as Weston scored the biggest goal of her career to send the Purple and Gold into NCAA Championship weekend. Wilgosh and Ashton Hogan ’15 were credited with assists on the goal as Wilgosh’s shot from the point was cleaned up on the rebound by Weston.
With the win, Elmira advances to the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament Semifinals, where they will square off with Wisconsin River-Falls. The semifinal game is scheduled for Friday, March 20th at 7:00 p.m. at the Stafford Ice Arena in Plattsburgh, NY.