PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — It was the Danielle Blanchard Show at the Stafford Ice Arena today as the Plattsburgh State Cardinals wrapped up their second consecutive ECAC West Championship with a 3-2 win over arch-rival Elmira.
The win gives the Cardinals an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament and improves their record to 25-0-2 on the season.
Blanchard led the offensive attack scoring all three of Plattsburgh’s goals en route to the championship. The hat-trick garnered her Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament.
“If she’s not our MVP she’s our co-MVP,” said Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle. “She’s not only the most talented player on our team; she’s one of the hardest workers.”
After a scoreless first period, Elmira’s Jenna McCall tapped in a rebound just inside the right post with 9:09 to play in the second period. This would be the last time the Soaring Eagles led in the game.
The score would remain that way until just over a minute remaining in the middle stanza when Blanchard began her work. The sophomore let a slap shot go from just above the right face-off circle, between an Elmira defender’s legs, and through Soaring Eagle goaltender Allison Cubberley to knot the game at one goal apiece.
The MVP wasn’t done. With just 2:21 gone in the third and final period, Blanchard took a Shay Bywater pass and snuck it in to the left of Cubberley. The score made it 2-1 Plattsburgh and shifted all the momentum in their favor.
The Cardinals continued to pressure the Soaring Eagles defense and eventually it would pay off yet again. With 7:31 left in the game, Cardinal forward Lesley Ann Mitchell carried the puck along the boards and into the Elmira zone. As she skated deep into the corner on the left side of Cubberley, she turned and headed toward the front of the net. While doing so she lost control of the puck, however, yet again it was Blanchard who came through in the clutch. Blanchard found the puck sitting just outside the crease and found a hole and buried it. The goal gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead and what looked like an ECAC West Championship.
Elmira on the other hand had different plans. With over a minute left in the game the Soaring Eagles pulled their goalie hoping to score two goals. Half of their goal was complete when Kayla Coady’s backhander over the left shoulder of Doyle cut the score to 3-2 with 1:03 to play in the game.
Unfortunately for the Soaring Eagles, that was all they could muster up and the Plattsburgh State Cardinals mobbed goaltender Bree Doyle as the buzzer sounded. The Cardinals earned their first ever victory over Elmira in the ECAC West Championship game. This makes the second straight title for the Cardinals, winning last year’s over Utica.
In the end though, the story was all about Danielle Blanchard. The hat-trick performance removed all doubt as to who the MVP of the tournament was. Blanchard, once again, steps up when it matters the most.
“It feels great,” said Blanchard of the award. “I feel like everyone on our team earned that. We earned it as a team.”
The Cardinals now move on to the NCAA Tournament. Late Sunday night they received the news that they were hoping for. Plattsburgh gets a bye into the semi-finals and will host the D-III championships in two weeks.
“We’re going to take one game at a time and work hard and hope for the best,” said Blanchard.