PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The Manhattanville Valiants advanced to the NCAA Division III National Championship for the third time in school history downing Wis.-Superior 4-3 in overtime at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
Manhattanville’s Jess Zimmerman was the hero of the day, scoring off a feed from Monique Rafferty 49 seconds into the first overtime period to send the Valiants to the finals.
“The puck came from the right side off of Rafferty’s stick,” Zimmerman said. “I shot it to the far post and wasn’t sure it went in, but it did. It was amazing especially for our seniors.”
Manhattanville improved to 24-6-0 on the season an extended their winning streak to 11 games. Wis.-Superior dropped to 23-5-1 on the season, snapping their 15 game unbeaten streak.
Manhattanville head coach Lauren McAuliffe was pleased to see her team come out on top in such dramatic fashion for the second straight week as the Valiants upset Middlebury 4-3 in overtime in last weekend’s NCAA quarterfinal at Kenyon Ice Arena.
“Anytime a game goes to overtime we’re excited to come out with a win,” McAuliffe said. “My hat is off to Wis.-Superior. It was a back and forth game that could have gone either way.”
The first period went by without any scoring and for the most part was a fairly sloppy period with not much flow and a lot missed passes and pucks rolling off sticks.
“We’ve never seen (Superior) play before so it was a bit of a feeling out process,” McAuliffe said. “I think a lot of girls were gripping their sticks a little tighter because we didn’t have much knowledge on our opponent.”
The game started to open up though in the second period when Wis.-Superior’s Teagen Cassan got the scoring started at 16:31 of the period on a fluke goal. Cassan skated down the right side of the ice and fired a shot towards the net after she reached the bottom of the circle and Manhattanville goaltender, Karine Turmel got caught with her pad off the post as it squeaked by and into the back of the net to give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead.
However, Manhattanville answered right back 45 seconds later with a similar fluke goal. Alex Blackwell centered the puck from behind the goal line in the right corner board. Her pass deflected off of Wis.-Superior goaltender Rikki Nespor’s left pad and into the back of the net to tie it up at one. The second period ended without any more scoring, setting the stage for a dramatic third period.
Just under three minutes into the third period, Manhattanville took their first lead of the game with a power play goal by Amanda Nonis. Sarah Fullerton shot the puck from the blue line and Nonis redirected the puck between Nespor’s five hole from slot.
Wis.-Superior pulled even just over halfway through the period when Allie Pullar scored an unassisted power play goal. Pullar walked in front the top of the right circle and snapped a wrist shot into the left corner of the net, beating Turmel over her right shoulder.
Amanda Nonis put Manhattanville back out front a little over two minutes later on a pretty breakaway goal. Nonis received an outlet pass from Dani Poupart and then split the Wis.-Superior defense. Nonis skated in on Nespor and beat her glove side for her second power play goal of the game. With her second goal, Nonis broke the Manhattanville program record for power play goals in a career.
With their backs to the wall, Wis.-Superior responded again to tie the game up with just under five minutes to play in the game. Brianne Mosher continued her dramatic postseason goal scoring knack as she beat Turmel glove side and breathed new life into the Yellow Jackets.
Wis.-Superior out shot Manhattanville 37-19 including an 18-5 edge in the third period, but still came up on the short end of the stick.
Karine Turmel stopped 34 shots as well as made some key saves throughout the game for Manhattanville to pick up her 10th win of the season and improving to 10-3-1 on the season.
Turmel was impressed with the unique blend of size and speed that Wis.-Superior brought to the table.
“(Superior) came through the zone really quick,” Turmel said. “I’ve never played on this ice before and the ice was a little wider so there were bigger angles.”
Rikki Nespor stopped 15 shots for Superior while picking up the loss to drop to 11-4-1 on the season.
Wis.-Superior head coach Dan Laughlin was pleased with his team’s effort and thought with the right bounce of the puck, the game could have gone the other way.
“Manhattanville was a good skating team and they had some excellent forwards,” Laughlin said. “We were right there with them and their goaltending the key to the game for them.”
Manhattanville moves on the 2008 NCAA Women’s D-III National Championship game Saturday at 7 p.m.
Wis.-Superior will play before that on Saturday in the third place game at 3:30 p.m.