PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — A gut-wrenching knockout at last season’s final four was impetus enough for Plattsburgh.
Using the collective angst from last spring as motivation, the Cardinals’ hopes of returning to the pinnacle came to fruition in the women’s Division III national title game Saturday night in an overwhelming show of hockey symmetry.
The Cardinals (28-1-1), in a true-to-form display of their depth and overall two-way talent, overwhelmed Norwich 9-2 before 1,619 fans at the Stafford Ice Arena.
“This is unreal,” said Plattsburgh senior forward Jordan Caldwell. “Every young girl wants to win a national championship and we made those dreams into reality.”
Caldwell, Bridget Balisy and Chelsea VanGlahn scored two goals apiece in the triumph.
“I don’t want to say that it was a perfect game for us, but it was an unbelievable game for us from start to finish,” said Cardinals’ coach Kevin Houle. “We made very few mistakes tonight. I could not be prouder of this group. From day one, they’ve been on a mission to get back to a national championship.”
The newly-minted champs actually spotted the Cadets a goal in the initial stages of the game before placing eight consecutive scores in the Norwich net.
The Cadets flew out of the blocks, intent on applying an aggressive forechecking presence. The tempo paid dividends when Madyson Moore moved in tight on Plattsburgh goalie Sydney Aveson, putting the game’s first goal on the board for the Cadets at 8:30.
Balisy offered a quick answer to Moore’s opening goal just 1:27 later when she uncorked a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that eluded Cadets’ goalie Taylor Fairchild.
Van Glahn’s goal at 15:31 of the opening period, which gave the hosts a 3-1 advantage, provided the means for Fairchild’s early dismissal from the festivities and ultimately stood as the winning goal.
Balisy’s second goal of the night and 16th of the season with under three minutes left in the first sent the Cardinals into the break with a 4-1 advantage.
“It’s the opponent we wanted because you always want to play the best,” said Norwich coach Mark Bolding. “When we look back, we end up with four losses and three of them are to this team. It’s something that you can really live with.”
Aveson, who set an NCAA D-III record for 69 career wins in the earning the victory, finished with 37 saves, 23 of which were reordered in the third period.
“I was really surprised I let that one in,” said Aveson of Moore’s early goal. “I wasn’t really nervous at all. I always say, ‘If you make a mistake, learn from it and forget it’ and that’s exactly what I did. I just shook that one off. I could not have asked for a better response from my team.”
The Cadets’ Haley Gibson got to Aveson in the closing stages, but the Cardinals’ Ali Vakos added an exclamation point to the lopsided result when she collected her 13th goal of the season with 25 ticks on the scoreboard clock.
“It’s not great for our team right now, but life is full of those reality moments,” Bolding said. “[Plattsburgh is] a great team and we know that we got beat by a true-talented, well-oiled machine.”