With a 5-3 victory over the Babson Beavers (18-10-1) last Saturday in the NCAA Quarterfinals, the Manhattanville Valiants (21-1-5) finally got a monkey off their backs. The Valiants had failed to get through the quarterfinal round each of the last two seasons even though they were the higher seeded team in both cases.
“It relieves a lot of pressure,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “Now that we have won three playoff games in a row, against three very good opponents, we are pretty optimistic about our prospects in Wisconsin.”
The Valiants defeated Elmira and Neumann in the ECAC West playoffs to get their playoff streak started.
In each of those games, however, Manhattanville has shown an alarming trend as the Valiants roared out to multi-goal leads only to see their opponents storm back to tie or get within a goal in the closing moments of the third period.
The game against Babson was no exception as Manhattanville built a 4-0 lead just 1:07 in to the second period on goals from four different players. The Beavers chipped away at the deficit with a pair of goals in the second period and a third tally just sixteen seconds in to the third stanza. But for the third straight game, the Valiants were able to hold on and add an empty net goal late as insurance.
“We made it exciting. Babson is really well coached and disciplined,” said Levinthal. “We had a chance to put that game away and just stopped doing what makes us successful. Then it got interesting. We have done that a fair amount of times, but have been living dangerous and surviving these things.”
As Manhattanville heads to Superior, Wisconsin to face the defending national champion Middlebury Panthers in the semifinals, the Valiants know that they need to stick with their game plan for a full sixty minutes.
“Middlebury is certainly going to be a big challenge for us, but it is something we are looking forward to and excited about,” said Levinthal. “We’re going to do what we are good at. Obviously, we have to be aware of certain things that they do, but at the end of the day, we are going to go in the way we got into this tournament.”
Manhattanville’s win against Babson in the Quarterfinals last weekend marked the Valiants first ever win in the NCAA playoffs.
Manhattanville had previously lost to NEC (4-2) in 2005 and Elmira (2-1 2OT) in 2006 in its previous two NCAA appearances.