NORTHFIELD, Vt. -- Senior forward Tori Charron scored 4:21 into overtime to lift Norwich to a 2-1 victory against defending NCAA Division III national champion Elmira in NCAA quarterfinal action on Saturday afternoon at Kreitzberg Arena.
Norwich (26-3-0) won its program-record 17th consecutive game and will now head to the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championships next weekend to be hosted by Plattsburgh State at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
The Cadets will meet Wisconsin-River Falls in the national semifinals, while Plattsburgh will take on St. Thomas in the other semifinal on Friday.
Charron pounced on a bobbled puck by an Elmira (21-6-1) defender off a flip pass from senior defenseman Brittany Sharman. The puck trickled through the EC defender's legs and Charron swooped in to pick up the puck with just one Elmira defender in front of her.
Charron skated in and toe-dragged around the Soaring Eagles' defenseman to free her up for a one-on-one with Elmira senior goalie Lisa Marshall. Charron deked and then flipped the puck over to her backhand before sliding it behind an outstretched Marshall and into the back of the net.
The goal marked Charron's nation-leading 28th goal of the season and the 104th of her career, moving her into sole possession of third place on the all-time NCAA DIII goals scored list. Charron's goal was remarkably similar to her overtime winner against Massachusetts-Boston in the Eastern College Athletic Conference East tournament semifinals.
To add even more irony to Charron's heroics, Elmira was where she spent her first two collegiate seasons before transferring to Norwich for the start of her junior season.
For 40 minutes, Elmira's Marshall and NU junior goalie Taylor Fairchild stole the show with impressive displays of goaltending. Charron rang a shot off the post with 8:35 left in the first period for Norwich's best scoring chance, while Elmira had a great opportunity with Erin Weston firing a puck into Fairchild's chest from the top of the slot with six seconds left in the opening period.
Norwich held a 21-16 shot advantage after two periods but neither side was able to score.
Elmira finally got on the board at the 6:59 mark of the third period when Anna Tude banked a shot off a NU defender's skate from the high slot past Fairchild to give the Soaring Eagles a 1-0 lead. Olivia Nystrom fed Tude from the far half boards after taking a pass from Johanna Eidensten to record the assists.
Despite dominating the play and shots, Norwich continued to be stymied by Marshall and the Elmira defense. The Cadets outshot Elmira 12-3 in the third period but weren't able to solve Marshall until the 14:14 mark when senior forward Haley Gibson scored her fifth goal of the season to ignite life into the Cadets.
Gibson roofed a backhand from the middle of the slot after she corralled a blocked shot off the stick of Madison Gallagher. Gibson turned and lifted the puck just over Marshall's shoulder to knot the game up at 1-1. Junior forward Madyson Moore also recorded an assist on the goal.
Elmira had a golden opportunity to take the lead again with 1:30 left in the game when Ashton Hogan was in alone on a breakaway with Fairchild, but she just pushed the shot wide.
Just moments later Elmira was whistled for too many players on the ice, giving Norwich a power play for the final 1:24 of regulation. The Cadets sent a flurry of shots Marshall's way, but none found the back of the net to force NU into overtime for the second consecutive year in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Norwich lost 3-2 to Middlebury at Kreitzberg Arena in last year's NCAA quarterfinals. However, Charron's heroics made sure that wouldn't be the case again as Norwich dominated the overtime session, outshooting Elmira 3-0 before Charron put her former team away for good and punched Norwich's ticket into the national semifinals for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
Marshall finished with 35 saves for Elmira, while Fairchild stopped 18 to improve to 14-2-0 on the season. Marshall fell to 16-5-1 on the season.