College Hockey:
Kunichika’s four points pace RIT to women’s D-III championship

— Rochester Institute of Technology defeated Norwich University, 4-1, to claim the 2012 NCAA Division III women’s championship.

Kourtney Kunichika notched a goal and three assists to lead the Tigers.

The game between the Tigers and Cadets was a rematch of last year’s national championship that Norwich won, 5-2. RIT, the No. 1 team in the nation, hosted the championship for the second consecutive season.

This year, however, the results were very different.

After a semifinal round marked by its rematches, the Tigers flipped the script, claiming their first national championship.

“We’re tired of talking about last year,” said Tigers coach Scott McDonald. “This team is a different team, and they went out there and showed it.”

The Tigers struck first on a power-play goal by Kristina Moss. Moss scored from the point 9:06 into the period on an assist from Kunichika for her seventh goal of the season.

The first period featured sloppy play from both teams, with each team having to kill a five-on-three power play in the opening frame. There were a total of seven penalties in the period, with four for Norwich and three for RIT.

The Cadets’ goal in the first came with the teams at even strength when Jacqueline Perez ripped a shot past RIT goalie Laura Chamberlain. Cadets forward Stephanie Invernizzi took a shot that rebounded off of Chamberlain’s pads, setting up the easy putaway for Perez.

The Tigers dominated play in the scoreless second period, outshooting the Cadets, 12-4, but were unable to capitalize. RIT had a few good opportunities during confusion in front of the net, but goaltender Kelly Fisk and the Norwich defense managed to weather the storm.

RIT opened up the scoring in the third when Celeste Brown scored the game-winning goal when she beat Fisk to the upper right of the net on an assist from Kunichika.

Kunichika got back on the stat sheet with 11:21 remaining when she put the Tigers up 3-1. Fisk lost track of the puck in front of the goal and Brown tipped a pass out to Kunichika who jammed home her twentieth goal of the season.

The Tigers scored their fourth goal 11:59 into the third when Ali Hills got only her second goal of the season. Kunichika assisted on the goal, leaving her with a hand in each of RIT’s goals on the evening.

“It felt great, just to help my teammates out,” said Kunichika. “Given the support from everyone, it’s amazing.”

Chamberlain came up big for the Tigers, holding Division III’s best goal-scoring offense below their season average. The sophomore goalie was named the championship’s Most Outstanding Player.

“I think it was a whole team effort,” said Chamberlain. “I really wanted to win; the whole team wanted to win.”

With the victory over Norwich, the Tigers took sole possession of the Division III season record with 28 wins. The two teams were tied at 27 wins coming into Saturday’s championship, adding another layer to a compelling championship matchup.

“You couldn’t have scripted it any better,” said McDonald. “Playing yesterday’s game against your arch-rival, playing the championship game against the team that took it away from you last year. We wanted to go out and show that we were the best team in the country.”

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