MIDDLEBURY, VT — The Elmira College Soaring Eagles are headed to their fourth national championship game after downing Wis.- River Falls 3-0 in the National Semifinals of the 2009 NCAA Division III Womens Ice Hockey Tournament.
Elmira improved to 24-4-1 on the season and River Falls dropped to 20-6-3.
Kayla Coady, the 2009 Laura Hurd Award winner, sparked the Soaring Eagles offense 1:36 into the game with a power play goal. The senior forward beat River Falls goaltender Cassi Campbell to her blocker side and the Soaring Eagles never looked back from there.
It was a bit of relief when we got that goal because it made it easier knowing putting the puck in the net early was possible and wed be able to rally around that if needed later in the game, Coady said.
Campbell kept River Falls in the game making numerous key stops to keep the Elmira offense at bay including robbing Lauryn DePaul of a tap-in goal late in the first period off a feed from Coady on a two on one.
However, Campbell could only do so much and eventually Elmira added to their lead late in the second period when Jamie Huntley scored her 19th goal of the season to increase the Soaring Eagles lead to 2-0.
Huntley received a pass in the slot from Lauryn DePaul and flipped a quick shot on goal as she spun around and seemingly surprised Campbell with a lot of traffic in front of the net blocking her vision.
I actually didnt even see it go in, Huntley said. I just caught the puck on my backhand and then spun around and shot it and didnt realize it went in until Kayla threw her arms up.
Elmira added the dagger 1:29 into the third period when Melanie Henshaw tallied her seventh goal of the season off an assist from Jenna McCall.
Senior goalie Allison Cubberley picked up her 21st win of the season and 10th shutout. With the win, Cubberley passed Edith Racine for the Elmira College all-time wins for a goaltender. She also increased her career shutout total to 22, also a new team record.
Its pretty exciting, Cubberley said. My whole career Ive been hearing about Edith Racine so its nice knowing Im up there in the statistics with her.
First year Elmira coach Greg Fargo said he was pleased with his teams performance and couldnt be happier being a part of the Soaring Eagles getting back to the National Championship for the first time since 2005.
I thought it was a good hockey game, Fargo said. It was a well played game by both teams for the most part. There was a feeling out period for a bit in the beginning but we were able to get a power play goal early and settle into our game plan and that was key.
The Elmira special teams and in particular the penalty kill were outstanding for the Soaring Eagles. Elmira killed off all nine power plays that River Falls had including two five on three opportunities.
The penalty kill has been huge for us all year, Fargo said. In any special teams situation, regardless of whether we are up or down a player, were confident with no matter who we have out there in the ice. We were able to gain and sustain momentum throughout the game because of the five on three kills.
River Falls coach Joe Cranston said that his team didnt have the extra step that they had for most of the season and especially the stretch run where the Falcons were unbeaten in their last 11 games.
First off, congratulations to Elmira, Cranston said. They played a really good game and were moving their feet all game. As far as my team, we just didnt have that step that weve had all season. We didnt make any plays or play with a sense of urgency and Elmira did that.
We just did not make good decisions. I dont know what it was but it seemed like when we got the puck we were tired and needed to get a line change. Thats something we havent seen all year. We didnt make good decisions on power play and you have to do that to be successful; it just didnt feel like we did that today.
River Falls best opportunities came at the end of the first period when the teams were finally able to play five on five for an extended period of time. Through the first 15 minutes of the first period, one team was on a power play for a majority of the time.
The only time we played our game was the second half of the first period, Cranston said. Elmira filled the lanes well and clogged up the ice. We didnt make quick enough decisions with the puck. We were on our heels waiting for something to happen and we didnt take advantage of the big ice while Elmira did.
Elmira moves on to Saturdays National Championship game at 7 p.m. where the Soaring Eagles will be looking to win their third title. River Falls will play in the third place game at 3:30 p.m.
Its a great feeling to be moving on to the finals, Coady said. Weve aspired to do it all four years here but weve come up short though. Its great to get the opportunity to finally do it and with the team we have, its a definite possibility to win and were really excited to play.