MIDDLEBURY, VT — The Amherst Lord Jeffs have officially completed the gauntlet. Amherst downed Elmira 4-3 in overtime in the 2009 NCAA Division III Womens Ice Hockey Championship on Saturday at the Chip Kenyon Ice Arena.
The Jeffs defeated all three teams in their NCAA Tournament run that had won the previous seven NCAA titles. Elmira won in 2002 and 2003, Middlebury from 2004-2006 and then Plattsburgh won the last two in 2007 and 2008.
Junior forward Kate Dennett scored the game winning goal 12:22 into the first overtime to set the Amherst crowd into a frenzy giving the Jeffs their first NCAA title.
Dennett fired a shot on net from above the circle and then continued driving to the net in hopes for a rebound. Dennetts hard work was rewarded as Elmira goaltender Allison Cubberley couldnt handle the initial shot cleanly and Dennett poked home the rebound before Cubberley could find it.
I still dont even know what happened, Dennett said. I didnt see it go in. I shot it and all I saw was the defenders jersey. I didnt know it went in until Tarasai (Karega) was in my face grabbing my jersey. We had a good shift and got a lucky bounce.
Cubberley said she really didnt know how the goal happened either.
There was a shot and the rebound was laying out and she put it on, Cubberley said and then when asked whether anybody else deflected it, Im not sure, I didnt see it.
In a game that featured plenty of momentum swings, Amherst came out on top with the most important one to beat Elmira 4-3 in overtime once again. The Jeffs topped Elmira by the same score in overtime on Feb. 18 during the regular season.
I give unbelievable credit to Elmira for a fantastic game on their part, said Amherst coach Jim Plumer. The momentum swings in the game were so enormous. Im incredibly proud of this group for the amount of heart they showed. The second period we really got our fore check going. For us to be successful we have to move our feet and use our speed. After the second I felt great, but credit to Elmira they came out and got one early in the third and then it was just a barnburner from there.
Elmira went up 1-0 at 15:21 of the first period, as a five on three power play was just about to expire. Kayla Coady continued her tremendous tournament putting home her 20th goal of the season on an assist from Jenna McCall.
Amherst came back in the second period and dominated the Soaring Eagles scoring two goals and allowing Elmira just seven shots while Amherst took a 2-1 lead with 13 shots on net. Courtney Hanlon tallied her team-leading 19th goal and Kate Dennett scored her first goal of the game with a little under five minutes remaining in the period.
However, Coady took it upon herself to bring Elmira back, scoring again to tie the game up at two early in the third period.
Lindsey Mitchell and Erika Godwin worked a puck out of the corner and then Godwin provided a perfect centering pass to Coady, who was able to fend off an Amherst defensemen and poke the puck past Amherst goalie Krystyn Elek before she could get across the crease.
Elmira went up 3-2 with less than nine minutes to go in the game when freshman defensemen Kathryn Walker found the back of the net. Walker sniped the upper 90 of the far post to beat Elek with a lot of traffic in front of the net.
Amherst responded, especially in the final six minutes of the game and upped the offensive pressure. The Jeffs bottled Elmira up and finally with 2:18 remaining in the game, Emily Vitale was able to find a loose rebound and beat Cubberley with four Elmira players laying on the ice around the net.
I was out there when they scored to go up 3-2, Vitale said. I missed the player on the point and allowed her to get the puck. We picked ourselves up though and kept going and fought through it. The shift we put in the goal we were fighting for the puck for like 30 seconds.
Elmira coach Greg Fargo said that he thought the team had a hard time clearing the puck out of the defensive zone after they went up 3-2 and Amherst was able to cycle well.
We tried to do our best to stay composed and sometimes when you do that you think defense first and its more passive, Fargo said. It was a great hockey game though with two extremely good teams battling it out. Its the most exciting game weve been a part of this year and the best Ive been a part of in a long time. It was back and forth with a lot of momentum swings throughout the game and could have went either way just like the last time we played them.
In the battle between the two RBK East All-American selections, Second Team goalie, Krystyn Elek out-dueled First Team goalie, Allison Cubberley to pick up her 16th win of the season. Elek made 25 saves but one of the more memorable moments of the game was the save she didnt have to make.
A fluke play happened in the third period, which had Amherst fans on pins and needles as they saw their goaltender all the way by the team bench with Kayla Coady streaking up the ice and the puck on her stick.
Elek had left the net because she thought a penalty had been called against Elmira. However, in fact the referee was just signaling a high stick. Amherst had possession of the puck so Elek started skating towards the team bench. The Jeffs ended up turning the puck over and Elmira started a breakout with Elek all the way at the team bench.
Once Elek realized, she started skating back to the net, but Coady already had a step on her. Coady gained the blue line and then took a wrist shot that went inches wide with an Amherst defender blocking her view of the net. Elek and the Jeffs escaped a near disaster.
I asked the ref what happened and he said he had his hand up for a high stick, Elek said with a laugh hoping to dodge the question during the post-game press conference. We had the puck so I went to the bench because I thought it was a penalty on them. Elmira ended up getting the puck and then I realized I was mistaken. I really just busted it back to the net, luckily she missed the net because I still wasnt back in the net.
Plumer said he and the team were happy when they found out the results of the selection show two Mondays ago.
Theres something about playing here that when we got the draw and found out we were in and that the final four was going to be in Middlebury it was a blessing in disguise, Plumer said. We love to play here and have had great success here. Yeah we had to play Plattsburgh in the first round but we felt like if we were going to be national champs we had to beat the best teams out there.
The Amherst womens hockey program has come a long way since 2007 when the Lord Jeffs won their first ever NESCAC Tournament game.
Plumer took over the program for the 2003-2004 season. The team had its first winning season that year with a 13-12-0 record. Now, six seasons after taking over, Plumer has taken the program full circle from being a blip on the radar screen to the national champions.
He credited the seniors for sticking with the program after they went 10-15 in their first season.
The senior class is extraordinary, Plumer said. I had the vision of a team I liked and it revolved around a mobile defense. In a place like Amherst it takes awhile because you cant get 10 or 12 kids in one year. Julie (Radziewicz) and Lindsay (Harrington) were the first two of the four that I saw that year that embodied what I wanted in a player. Lindsay I feel is an incredibly underrated player and had incredible drive. Shes the engine that makes us go. Julie plays the game at such a quick pace and most of our defense is faster than a lot of forwards.