On Friday night the No. 2 Plattsburgh State Cardinals make their first ever trip to Northfield, Vt. and Kreitzberg Arena to take on the team that ended their season so abruptly last March in the Norwich Cadets.
Plattsburgh (5-0-0, 4-0-0 ECAC West) fell victim to the heroics of Norwich senior captain Sophie Leclerc, who scored two goals in the last 1:37 of the game to lift the Cadets to a 3-2 upset win over the Cardinals in the NCAA quarterfinals last year.
After waiting nine months, Plattsburgh will finally get its shot at revenge.
“I think everyone is motivated in that regard, but it’s not anything that everyone is talking about,” Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle said. “That game is a memory we want to forget and move on from. We’re not dwelling on it though. We want to go into Norwich like we would any other and want to win. Norwich is a very good team and one of the top teams in the country; they proved that last year.”
Plattsburgh has rolled through its first five games so far, outscoring its opponents 34-2.
“We’ve taken care of business so far, but the Norwich game is definitely the biggest on our schedule so far,” Houle said.
The Cardinals’ plus-32 goal differential is impressive; however, they have yet to face the meat of their schedule this year.
“We haven’t played a lot of games yet because of the way the schedule is set up,” Houle said. “We play a few and then have a break, but we’re looking forward to it getting going now.”
Plattsburgh brought in five D-I transfers and four freshmen to try and offset the losses of Steph Moberg and Laurie Bowler.
“Everyone is doing well,” Houle said. “The transfers are contributing as are the new freshmen and we’re happy with our start thus far.”
Sophomore forward Teal Gove leads the Cardinals’ offense with seven goals and three assists for 10 points. Gove will play against three of her former teammates from the Ontario Hockey Academy this weekend in the Norwich trio of Renee Lortie, Haley Gibson, and Kayla Lascelle.
Friday’s game will mark the first leg of a home-and-home series that is new between Plattsburgh and Norwich this season. The Cadets will travel back across Lake Champlain on Jan. 12 to close out the season series.
“It’s kind of a natural and similar to what the men’s team does,” Houle said of the home-and-home series for this season. “The proximity is a big part and obviously with a great opponent so close, you want to play the toughest nonconference schedule you can and to be able to do that with a two-hour distance is great.”
Houle said he was well aware of the challenge that Norwich presents and that it would be Plattsburgh’s toughest game to date this season.
“Norwich does a great job on their forecheck,” he said. “First and foremost, we need to get the puck out of our end and play the game in their end. We need to do a good job on special teams. They have a strong power play and we’ll need to be ready for that.”
Friday night’s showdown kicks off a stretch where Plattsburgh will play seven of eight games against teams currently ranked in the top 10 in the latest USCHO.com Poll. The Cardinals then get a two-game break before traveling to Rochester to take on the top-ranked and undefeated RIT Tigers on Jan. 21 and 22 at the Frank Ritter Memorial Arena.
“No doubt it’s a tough stretch in our schedule, but is broken up by the break so we’re not playing one after the other as it appears,” Houle said. “That’s how you want to play though. If we could play all our games like that, it’d be great. We’re looking forward to the competition and get rolling here with our season.”
One thing is for sure, Plattsburgh will be plenty battle-tested after this stretch and it all starts tomorrow night in Northfield, Vt. For anyone unable to attend, the game will be webcasted for free at http://www.nsnsports.net/norwich/.