ERIE, Pa. — Wayne State coach Jim Fetter knew that CHA Rookie of the Year Ashley Riggs had to be stopped for his team to be successful in the league semifinal against Niagara.
The Warriors (13-17-3) did limit Riggs to just one assist, but that was all the scoring Niagara (16-14-3) needed in a 3-0 win. Goalie Nikki Rudy made 34 saves for the shutout that put the Purple Eagles into the CHA final.
Niagara took control by scoring two goals in the first four minutes. Just 2:42 into the game, Riggs set up Charde Hoyle-Levy for the first goal.
Fetter said, “Riggs had something like 50 points this year and she is very dangerous any time she is around the net or with the puck. We have to make sure we bump her and don’t give her any space.”
At 4:01 of the first period, junior defenseman Jessica Clermont shot a slapper from just inside the blueline through a screen that Wayne State goalie Val Turcotte never saw. That was all the scoring until the final 46 seconds, when Amy Jack put in an empty-netter.
Kerri-Lynn O’Hara, who assisted on Clermont’s goal, was snakebitten shooting herself, as she was stoned on a breakaway at the end of the first period and hit two posts on the same shot in aiming for what was essentially an open net in the second period.
As for the defense, a lot of the credit goes to Rudy.
“Nikki Rudy came up big for us,” said Niagara coach Margot Page. “With the physically strong Wayne State players crashing the net, it’s tough to do.”
Rudy said, “I have a very strong team in front of me and they made my job real easy. I saw a lot of the shots and they were there to help with any rebounds.”
Page made it clear to her players that it was important to take care of their own zone.
Page said, “We have to make sure that not only do we have to play well defensively, we have to play well offensively in our own zone. I think if we can get the puck out of our zone well we will score the goals.”
Page wasn’t 100 percent pleased with the team’s performance and needs a better game tomorrow against Mercyhurst.
“I don’t think it was our best hockey and one of the things we want to do better is play smarter,” Page said. “We came through today and hopefully we will play smarter against Mercyhurst.”
With Mercyhurst’s high powered offense, Niagara will need another great performance from Rudy and the defense. Niagara is 0-3-1 against Mercyhurst this year and has been outscored 13-3 in those games.
The CHA title will be handed out to one of these teams on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Mercyhurst Ice Center.