ELMIRA, N.Y. — For the Manhattanville Valiants, redemption is sweet.
In a rematch of last year’s NCAA title game, the No. 3 Manhattanville Valiants wanted to redeem themselves for their 5-2 championship loss against the Elmira Soaring Eagles and begin 2004 with a statement.
That statement became history as the Valiants became the first Division III team in 58 games to beat No. 1 Elmira with a 2-0 shutout on Wednesday. Thanks to a 21-save effort by senior goalie Renee Kirnan, Manhattanville won its eighth in a row, improving to 8-1-1 overall.
Coming into the contest, Elmira had not lost to a Division III opponent in 58 consecutive games (55-0-3), including four defeats of Manhattanville.
Senior Melissa Hawkins scored the game-winner on a power play, while sophomore Jami Grasby added an assist and an empty-net goal to cap the win.
The Valiants dominated, outshooting the Soaring Eagles 46-21 and killing three Elmira power plays.
An Elmira penalty at 5:40 in the first period gave Manhattanville the opportunity to capitalize on one of the few Elmira mistakes. With swift passing just across the crease by sophomore Jessica Temesy and Grasby, Hawkins tapped home the wide-open shot to give the Valiants an early 1-0 lead.
When Temesy received a slashing call midway through the first, the Manhattanville penalty kill unit forced Elmira to take shots away from the goal, giving Kirnan a good look to make some key saves. That penalty kill set the tone for the rest of the contest.
In the first period, senior forward Amanda Zimecki almost made it 2-0, but was robbed glove side on a 2-on-1. Then defenseman Ashley Trimble with a minute to go had a wide-open shot at the top of the circle only to be stifled.
Kirnan made 10 saves in the first period and looked sharp since last seeing action on Nov. 15 in the Valiants 3-2 win against Holy Cross.
The Valiants continued their intensity during the second period with Kirnan standing strong on a two-on-one breakaway against Elmira’s Emily Sand. After that save, Grasby had a breakaway opportunity that was saved. The Soaring Eagles flew back into the Manhattanville zone with another odd-man rush, only to be shut down again by Kirnan.
Manhattanville continued to pressure deep in the Elmira zone, forcing turnovers in the neutral zone and preventing odd-man rushes. With the shots in favor of Manhattanville, 36-17, after two periods, the lead could have expanded past the 1-0 mark heading into the second intermission.
Kirnan made two dazzling stops five minutes into the third period, one on a wraparound, the other on a pass in the slot. The Valiants also continued to get quality scoring opportunities while playing a physical brand of hockey. One play that drew the crowd’s ire came from a wicked hit in the Valiants zone freshman defenseman Darcie Jarvis.
Then around the 10-minute mark, Elmira sprang to life. A shot by Elmira’s Michelle Rennie hit the far post. Then Jaclyn O’Neil had a backhand shot that was denied by a sprawling Kirnan. The spurt prompted a Manhattanville timeout by Manhattanville head coach Nicole Kirnan.
Hawkins and Grasby had a couple of chances with four minutes remaining in the third on a breakaway to provide some insurance, but couldn’t capitalize.
With less than two minutes to play, Elmira turned up the heat. Kirnan made a huge save with the blocker on Elmira’s Shannon Sargent to preserve the lead. Elmira pulled the goalie with 1:21 to play, but Grasby picked up the insurance goal, her sixth of the season, from junior Nicole Blais and Nicole Stephens.