Lake Placid, N.Y. — Plattsburgh overcame an early 2-0 deficit and defeated rival Elmira College 6-3 in the second NCAA Division III Semifinal at historic Herb Brooks Arena.
“Not to be overconfident, and nothing against Elmira, which is an excellent team, but I thought we were the better team,” said Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery. “I watched them on tape three times this week, and I thought if we didn’t beat ourselves, we would win. We didnt start out that way.”
Elmira scored twice in the first 4:27 to take control of the game early. Just 1:59 into the contest, Sebastian Gulder’s shot bounced off of Derrick Ryan and past Cardinal goaltender Bryan Hince.
The Soaring Eagles would make it 2-0 at 4:27, when on the power play Nicholas Dumoulin’s shot from the point was redirected by Rusty Masters.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “But I thought coach Emery called a great timeout.”
Emery’s timeout at 4:27 settled his team down. “I reminded them that we weren’t playing our game. We were making mistakes and were minus two.”
Plattsburgh got back in the game with two goals to close out scoring in the first period. At 10:48, Elmira goaltender Casey Tuttle couldn’t corral a rebound, and Dylan Clarke pounced on it to cut the lead in half. At 14:29, Riley Hill deflected a shot from the point from Nick Rolls on the power play to even the score at two each.
“It was the greatest feeling in the world going into the locker room tied,” said Clarke.
“Everybody was pumped up,” said Plattsburgh’s Andrew Andrew Willock. “We knew we had it, to be honest. We knew that we could dominate down low.”
Plattsburgh took its first lead of the game at 2:34 of the second period with another power play goal. Clarke again redirected a shot by Tuttle.
But the Soaring Eagles weren’t through. At 6:01 Stefan Shoen took a feed from Russell Smith and beat Hince to even the score.
“I was proud of the way our guys fought back,” said Ceglarski. “But I thought we did a bit of puck watching, and not closing the gap in the defensive zone.”
Plattsburgh would answer and take the lead for good just 1:37 later. At 8:38, Tuttle made the initial save on a shot by Clarke, but Ward Smith put in the rebound. Willock would score at 14:41 to make it 5-3 going into the third period.
Joey Wilson got the only goal of the final stanza, swatting a bouncing puck out of mid-air that barely crossed the goal line.
A pro-Plattsburgh crowd of 5,625 was on hand, the largest to see a Division III playoff game.
“We have the greatest fans in Division III,” said Emery. “No matter what rink we play in, they’re there to pump us up.”
Hince was solid after the first, stopping 14 of 15 shots over the final two periods.
“I don’t think I got off to a rocky start,” he said. “One puck went in off a guy’s pants and another was redirected. I didn’t lose any confidence.”
The six goals by Elmira was the most the Soaring Eagles have given up all season.
“I’m more proud of this team than any I’ve every coached,” said Ceglarski. “I dont think the guys got the respect they deserved after starting the season 17-0-2 in one of the toughest leagues in the country. I don’t have children but I’m a proud father right now.”
“We don’t have superstars on this team,” said Emery of his Cardinals, which unlike the other three teams in Lake Placid, failed to place a player on the All-American team. “But we’re balanced and we have good players who work together.”
Plattsburgh will play for its third national title in school history tomorrow against St. Norbert, which is riding a 28-game unbeaten streak.
“We’ll watch some tape tonight,” said Emery. “But I try not to focus on the other team and worry about taking care of ourselves.”