PINE VALLEY, N.Y. — For two seasons in a row, Elmira had been shut out when hosting Manhattanville, but the Soaring Eagles turned the tables in their home rink this time around.
Elmira sophomore Cara McGurry turned away all 24 shots she faced, including seven on the powerplay, in the 3-0 victory for the Soaring Eagles (3-0) over the Valiants (1-2).
“We have two goalies who are great we haven’t quite settled on our No. 1 goalie, but Cara made a statement tonight,” said Elmira coach Paul Nemetz-Carlson. “Goaltending is definitely not one of our issues.”
Junior Stefanie McLean gave Elmira all the offense it needed 12 minutes into the first period, when she collected a loose puck in center ice and broke down the right wing. Muscling past a defender, she got the puck to Farren Hart in back of the cage. Hart’s wrap around attempt was saved by Manhattanville goalie Liane Ortis, but McLean pounced on the rebound for the 1-0 lead.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” McLean said. “I think everybody was really jittery and nervous and then after that first period we knew we had it and we could beat them… It felt great to come back and beat them in our own rink.”
The game opened at a quick back and forth pace that continued into the second period. Play became increasingly physical during the second period, including a Manhattanville five minute major for boarding. Despite a defense depleted by injuries, the Vailants managed to kill all the penalties.
“We had to kill off a lot of penalties, we have a lot of people playing different positions, it’s hard to get any offense going,” said Manhattanville coach Rene Kirnan. “This week we showed we could kill off penalties.”
Manhattanville moved some of its top scorers to defense to compensate for the injuries. There were occasions when both points on the power play were played by forwards Danielle Mazurek and Jessica Temesy. Temesy was able to geneate several good scoring chances walking in from the blueline.
Referee Carol Mullins decided to rein in the increasingly physical play and whistled 10 penalties in the third period.
Five minutes into the third period, Elmira senior Jaclyn O’Neil scored her second goal at even strength, although two Valiant forwards were at defense. She took a pass and broke in on the right, blasting a slapshot high to goalie Ortis’ gloveside and into the net off the crossbar.
“I think last year [O'Neil] had an All-American season,” Nemetz-Carlson said.
Natasha Yeates closed out the scoring when she exited the penalty box, putting Elmira on the powerplay, swept in on the left wing and rifled a shot high on the goalie’s stick side for a 3-0 lead with just over five minutes left to play.
Manhattanville returns to action tomorrow hosting ECAC East foe Salve Regina on the Valiant’s home ice at Rye Playland. Kirnan still has confidence in her team despite the 1-2 start.
“All our weaknesses have been exposed early.” Kirnan said. “I think we have all the tools to win the national championship.” “I think we have confidence in ourselves and we do have all the tools.”
Elmira travels to Troy, NY Saturday to take on D-I foe Rennselear at 2 p.m. The following Saturday the Soaring Eagles will travel to take on two-time defending NCAA champion Middlebury at 7 p.m. in the first bracket of the Middlebury Tournament. Plattsburgh plays Williams at 4 p.m. in the other bracket. It will be the first weekend of play for the NESCAC schools.