Feb. 26, 2009

Courtesy of Manhattanville

PURCHASE, N.Y. – The only champion in the seven-year history of the ECAC East Conference Tournament, the Manhattanville women’s hockey team begins its journey toward an eighth consecutive conference tournament title on Saturday as the Valiants battle Castleton State College at 3 p.m. at Playland Ice Casino in an ECAC East Tournament quarterfinal matchup.


Manhattanville (19-6, 17-3 ECAC East) enters the tournament as the top seed for the seventh time in eight seasons after finishing first among Division III teams and second overall in the regular-season standings in 2008-09. Eighth-seeded Castleton State (6-19, 6-15 ECAC East) placed third in ECAC East Division B and slipped to the eighth seed after dropping a 4-0 decision to UMass Boston in the final game of the regular season on Monday night.


Saturday’s game will be a huge contrast of postseason success.  The Valiants have an unparalleled history of success in the ECAC East Tournament, as Manhattanville is 16-0 in seven conference tournaments. Only twice has the team had to win three games to clinch the championship, as the team played quarterfinal-round games in 2003 and 2008 on the way to the title. Castleton State, meanwhile, is winless in two all-time ECAC East Tournament appearances.


Manhattanville and Castleton met on two occasions during the regular season, with the Valiants earning a pair of 4-0 victories. Junior Sarah Fullerton (Port Tobacco, Md.) led the squad offensively with two goals and an assist in the two games, including the game-winning tally in both contests, while junior goaltender Sophia Kokkonis (East Meadow, N.Y.) earned two wins in goal as the Valiants outshot the Spartans by a combined margin of 99-27.


The Valiants have been one of the best teams in the country on both offense and defense this season, as the team enters the postseason with the third-best scoring offense in Division III (4.36 goals per game) while allowing only 1.60 goals per contest (seventh in D-III).


The offense is spearheaded by the tandem of sophomore Holly Nonis (Brampton, Ontario) and senior co-captain Alex Blackwell (Brewster, N.Y.). Nonis is tied for second in Division III 40 points this season on 18 goals (T-7th D-III) and 22 assists (T-6th D-III), leading the team in all three categories. Blackwell became just the 12th player in program history to reach 100 career points last weekend, thanks to a career-high 17 goals that rank ninth in Div. III. The senior winger also ranks third in the nation with nine power-play tallies and fourth in game-winning goals with five.


The potent offensive attack features five players with at least 11 goals and 20 points, as Manhattanville as a team has outscored its opponents by a 109-40 margin and outshot the opposition, 872-530, this season.


Manhattanville complements that offense with a solid defensive corps that begins with the goaltending. Senior netminder Karine Turmel (Ste-Marguerite, Quebec) is 11-4-0 with four shutouts on the season, and ranks in the top-two in both goals against average (1.76) and save percentage (.926) among Div. III ECAC East goaltenders. Kokkonis also sees her share of time in goal, posting a 6-2-0 record with a 1.65 goals against average and .919 save percentage in nine games.


Castleton State has had some trouble finding the net this season, ranking 40th out of 47 Div. III teams in scoring offense at 1.52 goals per game. The Spartans’ leading scorer is sophomore Amy Costa, who has 10 goals and two assists for 12 points so far in 2008-09, while senior Kayla Twigge has registered a team-best eight assists and ranks second on the team with 11 points this year.


The Spartan goaltending duties have been largely split between sophomore Amanda Hoy and senior Kalla Robb. Hoy was in goal for both games against Manhattanville and has posted a 4-10-0 record in 14 starts, stopping 89.0 percent of shots and recording a 3.29 goals against average. Robb has made 11 starts on the season, going 2-9-0 with a 3.37 goals against average and an .882 save percentage.


Tickets for the game are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for non-Manhattanville students (with valid ID).  All Manhattanville students who come to the rink with a valid student ID will be admitted free of charge courtesy of the Manhattanville Athletic Department.


If you can’t make it to Playland for Saturday’s game, the Manhattanville-Castleton State game will be broadcast live on GoValiants.com and AllInBroadcasting.com as an audio stream, while live stats will also be available for those wishing to follow along with the game. Links to both the live stats and the live audio or video will be posted on the front page of GoValiants.com by Saturday morning.