HAMDEN, Conn. — Clarkson spotted Mercyhurst an early goal, but then scored five unanswered goals in the second and third periods en route to a 5-1 victory over the Lakers to advance to the Division I women’s national championship game.
The Golden Knights will play for their first national championship in their very first appearance in the women’s Frozen Four.
“Obviously, an exciting night for us, biggest win in the program’s history,” Clarkson co-head coach Matt Desrosiers said. “I thought the girls did a great job of sticking with it tonight.”
Clarkson’s offense exploded for three goals in the second period, including the game-winner from Vanessa Gagnon midway through the period.
“I thought we came out with a little jitters and then when they got the first goal, the energy went down,” Desrosiers said.
Renata Fast buried a wrister through traffic and past Mercyhurst netminder Amanda Makela from the right point five minutes into the second period to tie the game 1-1 for Clarkson to give the Golden Knights momentum as the period continued.
“My main goal was to get the puck on net,” Fast said. “I had some big screens in there, so it was a lot of help.”
Just over four minutes later, the Golden Knights took the lead for good as Jamie Lee Rattray sent the puck across Makela’s front side where she failed to cover up the puck and Gagnon dove to her right to swipe the puck into the net and take a 2-1 lead.
“Jamie Lee pretty much did all the work, she got in the corner to make sure I got the puck,” said gagnon. “I mean, I saw it at the last second, so I dove for it and got the goal, so a lot of credit goes to Jamie Lee.”
The Golden Knights weren’t done scoring as they extended their lead to 3-1 with 3:36 remaining in the second period when Christine Lambert redirected a Fast wrister from the right point past Makela in similar fashion to Fast’s goal earlier in the period.
“We obviously weren’t happy because the biggest thing, I thought, at times, they were just winning battles that we usually win and it was unacceptable,” Mercyhurst coach Michael Sisti said. “We needed our players to play with a little more pride and the biggest thing I told them was if our season is going to end tonight, it has to end playing to the level of our standards. We have to make sure we have nothing left at the end of the game.”
Despite trailing 3-1 at the second intermission, Sisti said he felt his team still had a great chance of coming back in the game.
“It just takes one shot to get right back into the game,” said Sisti. “We’ve been down before, we’ve come back from down three, four goals in the past in one period, so we wanted to make sure it could be done.”
Brittany Styner added to Clarkson’s lead six minutes into the third period to make it 4-1 when Rattray found Styner, who lifted the puck top-shelf past Makela.
“Tonight wasn’t one of our best efforts and I think part of that is because of how well Clarkson played,” Sisti said. “We looked like a young team today and we fired at times.”
Shannon MacAulay capped off the scoring for the Golden Knights when she scored an empty-net goal with just 14 seconds remaining in the game.
Clarkson goaltender Erica Howe finished the game with 18 saves on 19 shots in the victory, while Makela recorded 30 saves in the loss.
Mercyhurst took their only lead of the game 8:02 into the first period when Jaclyn Arbour collected the puck just to the right of the goal post after Howe kicked out the rebound.
“A lot of our players have stepped up over the last couple of weeks, filling the void of Erin [Ambrose] not in the lineup,” Desrosiers said. “Our defense has done a great job holding some pretty good teams to not very many scoring chances and not very many goals.”