In the 10-year history of the NCAA sponsoring a Division III women’s hockey championship, only one team has ever gone a whole season unbeaten. The 2007 Plattsburgh Cardinals went 27-0-2 on their way to their first national championship.
This season, Plattsburgh will try to play the role of spoiler as the top-ranked RIT Tigers come into this weekend’s ECAC West showdown at the Frank Ritter Memorial Arena in Rochester with a perfect 17-0-0 record.
“It’s one of those weekends that you look forward to all year,” RIT coach Scott McDonald said. “Both teams should be very excited about it with two very competitive teams fighting for the top spot in the league and trying to get a home playoff weekend. We’re ready to go and get after it.”
For the first time in RIT’s four-year membership in the ECAC West, the Tigers are in prime position to host the conference playoffs due to Elmira and Plattsburgh splitting, as well as the Soaring Eagles having an early season tie with Oswego.
Entering this weekend’s two game-set, RIT holds its destiny in its own hands, and if the Tigers can take three points from the Cardinals, they’ll have a stranglehold on the regular season title.
“I think we finally have the experience now on our side, whereas the last couple years, Elmira and Plattsburgh have had older teams and I think they are kind of in their recruiting cycle where they are the young team,” McDonald said. “Our upperclassmen have been around the last few years where we’ve kind of been stung by them and now I’m hoping that we’re ready to take it to them.”
RIT has been steamrolling its competition this season, outscoring its opponents 110-14. The Tigers are averaging a stout 6.47 goals per game, which is exactly two goals a game more than Plattsburgh, who ranks second.
Leading the way is senior forward Katie Stack. She is one of the front-runner candidates for the Laura Hurd Award this year, with 13 goals and 15 assists for a nation-leading 28 points.
Fellow senior classmate Sarah Dagg has chipped in 11 goals and 16 assists to once again combine with Stack as one of the nation’s top 1-2 scoring punches.
However, the difference for RIT this season has been the emergence of a handful of freshman and sophomores that have taken the Tigers to the next level.
Sophomores Tenecia Hiller (7-19-26), Ariane Yokoyama (2-19-21), and Kim Schlattman (7-13-21), along with freshmen Kourtney Kunichika (4-20-24), Kolbee McCrea (15-4-19) and Erin Zach (11-5-16), have given the Tigers’ unprecedented depth.
“The overall balance on our team has been amazing this year,” McDonald said. “We’ve pretty much run the same four lines all year with a couple injuries here and there so the chemistry has been there all season. We have the young line of Yokoyama, Kunichika, and Zach that’s just a matchup nightmare for teams if they want to shorten it up to two lines, because we’ve got three we can roll with.”
McDonald said the key to the weekend will be RIT’s ability to play their game and not Plattsburgh’s, and whichever team gets there first will probably win.
“We have to settle down and dictate the pace of the game and not let Plattsburgh get us playing their game,” McDonald said. “We’re not afraid to run and gun if that’s what it takes to get some chances. We’ve got a solid goaltender in the net that’s been playing well for us and we’ve got confidence in her.”
McDonald was a bit modest calling his No. 1 goaltender, freshman Laura Chamberlain’s play, “solid” so far this season. The Norco, Calif. product is 11-0-0 on the season with a 0.84 goals against average and a .952 save percentage to help solidify the pipes this year for the Tigers.
If two top-five teams weren’t enough of a reason to pack the Ritter Arena on Friday and Saturday, the Tigers will also be hosting a fundraiser titled “Black Out Heart Disease” weekend.
RIT will be wearing special-edition black jerseys that are currently being auctioned off online.
“It’s a fundraiser for the Geneva General Hospital,” McDonald said about the special weekend. “One of the doctors saw we did “Pink the Rink” last year and wanted to know what they could to get on board with something like that. We wanted to keep going with the momentum we had last year with a special game while wearing a third jersey. Plattsburgh crowds are always big anyways and when you put the third jersey on and play for a good cause, it makes it even better for everyone.”
Plattsburgh has been the mirror image of RIT in most statistical categories this season. The Cardinals rank second in scoring offense and third in scoring defense, right behind RIT, who is second.
RIT boasts the nation’s top power play, clicking at 27.9 percent, while Plattsburgh is second at 25.7 percent. The Tigers’ penalty kill ranks third at 94.8 percent, while the Cardinals are 20th, killing off penalties 87 percent of the time.
On top of the fundraisers I mentioned in my blog post this week that RIT, Norwich, and Plattsburgh will be hosting, Elmira hosted a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and raised over a $1,000 for cancer research during a weekend series with Potsdam.
On Friday Feb. 4, Castleton will be hosting a “Pink the Rink” for the second straight season. Last year, the Spartans donated $6,317 to the Breast Care Program in 2010.
Castleton is currently holding an online bid auction for game-worn special pink jerseys and there are still plenty available to purchase.
On Friday, February 4, the Castleton State College women’s hockey team, along with the Rutland Regional Medical Center and the Foley Cancer Center will join forces to “Pink the Rink” and raise breast cancer awareness.
All proceeds from the game’s ticket sales will be donated to the Breast Care Program at RRMC. Castleton will also wear collectors’ edition pink jerseys donated by RRMC during the game. All jerseys will be available to purchase through an online auction held prior to the game, with all proceeds being donated back to the Breast Care Program.
Courtesy of Castleton Sports Information