The fourth-ranked Elmira College Soaring Eagles had all they could handle Wednesday night against Hamilton as they survived the Continentals upset bid, squeaking by with a 7-5 win. In a game that literally had everything: lots of scoring, physical play, key saves, high emotion and even a penalty shot, the Soaring Eagles and Continentals certainly didnt disappoint the crowd at the Murray Athletic Center on Wednesday.
The Soaring Eagles (11-2-0) rallied from two goal deficits, three times during the course of the game and closed the game with four unanswered goals in the last 10 minutes of the game to secure the non-conference victory against Hamilton (3-6-0) of the NESCAC.
Im glad that were out of here with a win, said Elmira head coach Paul Nemetz-Carlson. We responded well to the adversity we faced and this win certainly helped us grow as team.
Leading the way for the Elmira offense was sophomore forward Jenna McCalls four points. McCall (Thamesford, Ont.,) had two goals and two assists including the fourth Elmira goal that proved to be the turning point of the game when McCall cut the Hamilton lead to 5-4 and sparked the ferocious late rally.
With Elmira trailing 5-3 and searching for an emotional play to get back into the game, McCall answered when she banged home a loose rebound in front of Hamilton goaltender, Meghan Shine.
Farren (Hart) took a shot from the top of the circle and then there was a big scramble in front of the net, McCall said. I saw the puck sitting in the crease and was able to put it in before the goalie could recover.
Nemetz-Carlson praised the play of the McCall as being a huge part in the Soaring Eagles comeback.
The game changed when she changed, Nemetz-Carlson said. She works hard is full of spirit and our emotional leader. When she goes, we follow.
Elmira never let off the gas from that point on as sophomore Melanie Henshaw took over from there having a part in the last three Elmira goals. Henshaw (Margate, Fla.) assisted on the game-tying goal as her shot was deflected in front by Amanda Ritzel (Spencerport, N.Y.) for the Soaring Eagles third power play goal of the game.
Henshaw put Hamilton away for good scoring the game-winning goal with a little over five minutes to go and then scoring the game clincher with 57 seconds remaining in the game.
The game winning goal came on the power play as Henshaw was able to beat Shine high to put the Soaring Eagles out front for good.
(Jamie) Kivi and I always work on those plays at the top of the circles, Henshaw said. We knew what we had to do and I saw an opening in the top left corner and shot it there.
Henshaw acknowledged that the win was key heading into a big game this weekend against Manhattanville.
This was definitely a big win, Henshaw said. We knew that they were a good team as they played us close last year. It was great that we were able to come back and hopefully we can keep the momentum going.
For most of the game, the eventual Elmira win was nowhere near a sure thing. The Soaring Eagles were taking a lot of penalties and struggling in the defensive zone allowing two breakaway goals to Hamiltons Stephanie Miguel (Maple, Ont.,) for their first goal and Kathryn Kroleski (New Rochelle, N.Y.,) for their fifth goal.
The Soaring Eagles also gave up two power play goals after giving up just three all season before Wednesday. The two power play goals came 26 seconds apart early in the second period and gave the Continentals a 3-1 lead. Kroleski notched her first of two goals in the game and Cindy Lukianchuk (Erickson, Man.) tallied the other.
We did have a lot of penalties and thats going to happen with the aggressive style of play we use, Nemetz-Carlson said. I think we might have been a bit too overconfident in our penalty kill and we got a little lax and Hamilton made us pay.
Perhaps the most exciting play of the night happened with 30 seconds to go in the game when Hamiltons leading scorer Lauren Tomford was awarded a penalty shot after Elmiras McCall was whistled for covering the puck in the crease after a scramble in front of the net.
Tomford (Avon, Conn.), skated in fast and tried to beat Elmira goaltender Cara McGurry high and glove side like Hamilton had been doing all game long, but her shot sailed high and wide and the Soaring Eagles preserved their two goal advantage, while the crowd at the Murray Athletic Center let out a collective sigh of relief.
One big cause for concern for the Soaring Eagles as they head into Saturdays big showdown at Manhattanville is the fact Elmira has given up nine goals in their last two games. While the offense has been able to bail the Soaring Eagles out in the third period, Nemetz-Carlson agreed that its something that will be focused on in practice the next few days.
We need to be more patient on defense and make some smarter decisions with the puck and positioning, Nemetz-Carlson said. These last two games weve had a lot of defensive breakdowns that created turnovers and resulted in goals for the other team. Some of the mistakes have also been mental but were going to work on that before Manhattanville.
Elmira travels to Purchase, N.Y. on Saturday to take on the eighth-ranked Manhattanville Valiants (7-3-0) in a big non-conference tilt that will have a strong impact on both teams NCAA resumes.
Hamilton will return home to NESCAC conference play as they host Conn. College on Friday and seventh-ranked Amherst on Saturday.