The Norwich Cadets (24-4-1) used a natural hat trick by Julie Fortier to advance to the NCAA Division III Women’s Championship Hockey game for the second consecutive year with a 5-4 win against Gustavus Adolphus (22-4-3) at Frank Ritter Arena on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology on Friday afternoon. The Cadets jumped out to a 5-1 lead after two periods and then held off a furious Gustavus rally in the third period to claim the one goal victory.
Norwich took a 1-0 lead when the Cadet’s Melissa Rundlett found Fortier in the slot and Fortier re-directed the pass through the legs of Gustavus goaltender Danielle Justice at the 9:44 mark of the first period. The Gusties countered with several good scoring opportunities over the next six minutes, but Cindy Fortin had the answer each time Gustavus put pressure on the Norwich netminder. Fortier halted any Gustavus momentum with her second goal of the period at the 18:11 mark. Rundlett picked up her second assist of the game as she fired a shot from the blue line that Fortier tipped over the shoulder of Justice into the upper left corner.
The Julie Fortier show continued in the second period as the junior from Saint Malachie, Quebec registered the pure hat trick with a goal at the 2:27 mark extending Norwich’s lead to 3-0. Just as it appeared that the Cadets might pull away from the Gusties, Lindsey Hjelm scored an unassisted goal at the 4:48 mark driving a blast from the left circle that beat Fortin on the glove side making the score 3-1. The comeback was short-lived for Gustavus, however as Norwich would score twice in the final eight minutes of the period and took a 5-1 lead into the locker room after 40 minutes of play. Rundlett scored the fourth goal on the power play with an assist from Fortier at 12:01 and Brittane Michaud scored what would turn out to be the game-winner at 16:59.
Early in the third period, Gustavus cut the lead to 5-2 when Jenna Christensen took a cross-ice pass from Meagan Wanecke and one-timed a rocket from the left circle into the upper right corner at the 1:15 mark. Six minutes later, the Gusties would inch closer as Allie Schwab scored a power play goal with 13 minutes left to play to cut the lead to 5-3. Gustavus, knowing it had a steep hill to climb, used an aggressive forecheck to put pressure on the Cadets, however Fortin repeatedly turned the Gusties away with her fine goaltending.
With one minute remaining, Gustavus pulled its goaltender and 30 seconds later the Gusties made the game even more interesting when Allie Schwab scored her second goal of the game to cut the lead to 5-4 with 30 seconds left in the contest. The Gusties would get one last opportunity to score the tying goal with a face-off in the Norwich zone with 05 seconds left, however the Cadets won the face-off and held on for the one goal victory.
Norwich, which fell to Amherst 7-2 in the 2010 NCAA Championship game, will get another opportunity to play for a national title on Saturday at 7:00 pm at Ritter Arena on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology. Gustavus will play in the third place game at 3:30 pm.