ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Julie Fortier scored 4:07 into overtime to lift the Norwich to a 4-3 victory against Gustavus Adolphus in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament on Friday night, as well as a berth in its third consecutive national championship game.
Fortier redirected an initial shot by Sarianne Lynn over the shoulder of Gustavus Adolphus goalie Danielle Justice to set up a rematch with top-ranked RIT for the second consecutive year. Norwich beat RIT 5-2 in last year’s title game to claim its first national championship in only the program’s fourth season at the varsity level.
The goal was Fortier’s nation-leading 31st tally of the year and came on the heels of her being named the 2012 Laura Hurd Award (National DIII Player of the Year) winner at Thursday night’s NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship banquet.
Friday night’s game marked the second consecutive year that Norwich and Gustavus Adolphus had met in the national semifinals. Although both games resulted in one-goal victories for Norwich, they couldn’t have been more different. Last year, Norwich led 5-1 going into the third period and withstood a ferocious third period comeback by the Gusties to hold on for a 5-4 win. This year’s game was an even back-and-forth affair that never saw a team lead by more than a goal.
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Norwich (27-2-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead at the 6:34 mark of the first period when Meghan Papagno poked home a rebound into a wide open net after Justice made an initial save on Haley Gibson’s shot. Lynn picked up the second assist on the goal after springing Gibson and Papagno on a mini 2-on-1 with a pass from the side boards.
Gustavus Adolphus (24-3-2) carried the play for the rest of the period and eventually leveled the score at the 14:42 mark of the first when Melissa Doyle sniped a shot over the glove of Norwich goalie Kelly Fisk off an assist from Meagan Wanecke.
Doyle struck again for Gustavus Adolphus on nearly an exact replica of her first goal at the 6:46 mark of the second period when she once again beat Fisk over the glove and tucked a shot just underneath the cross bar to give the Gusties a 2-1 lead.
Jillayne DeBus tied the game back up at two just under five minutes later with her 22nd goal of the season and sixth of the postseason. Sophomore forward Renee Lorti took a pass from Tyne Gove and wheeled through the slot before finding DeBus off to her left. DeBus corralled the pass from Lortie, picked her spot and wristed the puck past Justice’s glove as she was sliding across the crease.
Kaycie Anderson put Norwich back on top 5:37 into the third period when she wristed a shot top shelf past Justice’s blocker off assists from Fortier and Melissa Rundlett.
However, as was the norm in the game, the lead didn’t last long as Gustavus Adolphus’ Lindsey Hjelm tied the game back up at three by beating Fisk with a low shot to the right post with a defender draped all over her back in the middle of the slot.
Norwich was called for two penalties in the final 10 minutes of regulation, including one that carried over into the first 1:57 of overtime, but the Cadets withstood the Gustavus pressure to keep the game tied and set up Fortier’s overtime heroics.
Fisk made 28 saves for Norwich to become the first goaltender in Norwich women’s hockey history to record 20 wins in a single season. She is now 20-1-0 on the season.
Justice made 28 saves as well for Gustavus Adolphus and was saddled with her first loss of the season to close her outstanding four-year career with an 18-1-2 record in her senior season.
Fortier has now scored four goals and added three more assists for seven points in three Frozen Four games at RIT’s Frank Ritter Memorial Arena dating back to last year’s two wins.