PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – The Plattsburgh State women's ice hockey team hosted Middlebury College on Friday afternoon in the 2016 NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey semifinals, and used a four-goal second period to down its cross-lake rivals 5-3 and advance to the National Championship Game for the third consecutive season.
The Cardinals got on the board first 7:26 into the opening period. Freshman Karen Hudson was stationed in front of the net and was the recipient of a pass from fellow first-year player Muna Fadel. The Sykesville, Md., product beat Panthers' goalie Julie Neuburger point blank range to give Plattsburgh State a 1-0 lead.
Middlebury responded just less than five minutes later as Jessica Young skated in on a 2-on-1 and wristed one past Cardinal netminder Camille Leonard from the left dot.
Applying most of the offensive pressure towards the end of the opening period, Plattsburgh State outshot Middlebury 13-7 in the first frame.
The second period belonged to the Cardinals, as they lit the lamp four times to take a 5-1 lead into the locker room after 40 minutes of play.
Recently named AHCA First Team All-American Kayla Meneghin gave the Cardinals their second lead of the game just 1:08 into the period. The Clifton, N.J., native collected a rebound off of her own shot and stuffed one past Neuburger far post.
Fadel picked up her second point of the game five and a half minutes into the second when she beat Neuburger high with a slick wrist shot, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
Plattsburgh State never let up in the middle frame, forcing back-to-back Middlebury penalties at 13:10 and 16:04. Just six seconds into the second of those penalties, senior captain Bridget Balisy fired a shot from the point that got through all sorts of traffic in front of the net, making the score 4-1 for the Cardinals.
Just a minute and one second later, Plattsburgh State broke away from its defensive zone and skated in on a 3-on-1. Giovanna Senese and Melissa Sheeran would play give and go, with Senese finishing the off the odd-man rush by sliding the puck past Neuburger and giving the Cardinals a four-goal lead at 5-1, forcing a Middlebury timeout.
The Cardinals continued to build up the pressure early in third period, but it was the Panthers that grabbed some momentum back as Young would get her second of the game at 12:35. The sophomore found the puck while it was in the middle of a scrum in front of the net and beat Leonard to bring Middlebury to within three goals at 5-2.
With just under three minutes remaining, the Panthers continued to chip at the Plattsburgh State lead. Elizabeth Wulf was in great position in front of the net and tapped in a puck that was redirected on the way towards the net.
Plattsburgh State would call a timeout following the third Middlebury goal and set up a defensive strategy to keep the Panthers off the board in the final 2:19.
Despite Sheeran taking a body checking penalty with 50 seconds remaining and Middlebury pulling its goalie, the Cardinals fended off all efforts put forth by the Panthers and held on for the 5-3 victory.
Sheeran and Senese each finished with three points, while Leonard made 21 saves to earn the win.
The top-ranked Cardinals improve to 28-1-0 and will play in the National Championship Game Saturday night at 7 p.m. Plattsburgh State will face the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, who defeated Elmira College 4-3 in overtime in the second semifinal matchup. The Cardinals and Falcons will meet for the first time ever.
Elmira and Middlebury will square off in the third-place game Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The soaring eagles beat the Panthers 3-1 earlier this season on November 27 in the Panther/Cardinal Classic at Middlebury.