Women’s D-III picks: NCAA first-round

Women’s D-III NCAA Tournament (First round)

Friday, March 14

St. Thomas (19-5-3, 14-2-2 MIAC) at Wisconsin-Stevens Point (19-5-4, 9-3-3 WIAC)
Wisconsin Stevens Point took both sides of a two-game set last December on St. Thomas Academy ice. The Pointers rely heavily on junior goalie Jenna Beilke-Skoug, as evidenced by her 23 games and 1,394 minutes played, which stands as the fourth most in the nation. Skoug made 66 saves on 68 total shots in the two-game series that the two clubs engaged in last December. Like her counterpart at the opposite end, Tommies senior goalie Alise Riedel fashioned a career-best campaign, forging a 17-1-3 record. In somewhat of a twist, both clubs possess the least effective power play, statistically, of the eight tournament teams. The Tommies, rank 30th with a 14.86 success rate, while the hosts reside near the tail end of the national rankings with a rate of 12.12 percent on 12-of-99 opportunities. WSP proved proficient in matchups with ranked teams, posting an 8-4-3 record. Home ice prevails. Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-2

Saturday, March 15

Lake Forest (17-5-3, 13-3-2 NCHA) at Wisconsin-River Falls (21-4-3, 11-2-2 WIAC)
Lake Forest makes is program debut at the NCAAs, while the Falcons appear for the sixth consecutive year. The Foresters’ lone matchup against a WIAC team resulted in a 7-1 loss to Wisconsin-Stevens Point last month.Wis.-River Falls, in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, has outscored opponents by the tune of 41-9 in the run. Lake Forest sophomore Michelle Greeneway tops the nation in goals with 29, but the Falcons counter with both a top-five ranked offense as well as the fourth-ranked defensive unit in the nation.  Six players have notched 10 or more goals this season for the hosts. Wis.-River Falls goaltender Ashley Kuechle has seven shutouts to her credit, along with a career best 1.17 GAA. Kuechle, who has  a proven ability to alter the course of close defensive games with top-ranked opponents, will most likely play a major role advancing the Falcons to the next round. Wisconsin-River Falls 4-1

Williams (15-9-3, 9-4-3 NESCAC) at Plattsburgh (25-1-1, 15-1-0 ECAC West)
Momentum in hand, following a sharp second-half run, the Ephs are focused on offering up a mistake-free, highly disciplined effort this time out. But Plattsburgh, which outshot Williams 46-29 in 4-1 win in mid-January, has amassed a regular season of enviable proportions. The Cardinals defense has not been welcoming to opponents, allowing a skimpy 0.59 goals per contest. Plattsburgh has outshot opponents 1207 to 464.  Cardinals goalie Sydney Aveson, who leads the nation with a 19-1-1 record and 13 shutouts, was undefeated at Ronald Stafford Ice Arena this season. Plattsburgh 4-0

Elmira (21-5-1, 15-1-0 ECAC West) at Norwich (25-3-0, 16-0-0 ECAC East)
The defending champions, Elmira possesses a dynamic trio of high-scoring forwards in juniors Ashley Ryan (15-28-43), Ashton Hogan (17-14-31), and senior Tanis Lamoureux (13-24-37), while the Cadets, who are working on a 16-game win streak, answer with Tori Charron, who is among the all-time leading scorers in D-III history. Norwich defensemen are offensive-minded as well, as five blueliners have registered 10 points or more thus far. Norwich copped a 3-2 victory over the Soaring Eagles at Kreitzberg in the opening weekend of the season in the East-West Classic, while Elmira nabbed a 3-1 win at home in the third game of the 2014 portion of the schedule, the Cadets last loss. Norwich has forged a strong 8-3-0 record against ranked teams. In a matchup befitting a title game, it’s Norwich. Norwich 3-2

Women’s D-III wrap: March 10

A trio of new contenders finished off conference championships with flair, gaining automatic NCAA bids in the process. For a pair of ECAC entities, the script remained unchanged.

Lake Forest (17-5-3) No.9
Lake Forest, propelled by a 3-2 comeback overtime triumph over St. Norbert, reaped its first NCAA tournament slot in program history. The newly minted NCHA champs responded to a 2-1 deficit late in regulation on a score by senior defenseman Sarah Gilbride. Junior Emily Wybo capped the win 4:04 into the OT period when she beat Green Knights goaltender Kaley Gibson.

Williams (15-9-3) No.10
Williams put an end to a decade-long absence in the NCAA tournament with a 4-1 victory over Bowdoin at the NESCAC championship on Sunday. The last winning season for the surprising Ephs materialized in 2009-10. Current Polar Bears coach Marissa O’Neil guided Williams to a 12-11-2 record that season before heading north to take her spot behind the Bowdoin bench. The Ephs built on a 2-0 first-period lead 59 seconds into the middle period on Gabrielle Vukasin’s eighth goal of the year. Bowdoin closed to 3-1 just 29 seconds later on Ariana Bourque’s bid past Williams’ goalie Chloe Billadeau. Billadeau finished with 28 stops in gaining her eighth win.

St. Thomas (19-5-3) No. 6
Alise Riedel’s 2-0 shutout over No. 8 Gustavus Adolphus in the MIAC title game automatically advanced St. Thomas to its first NCAA tournament since the 2002-03 season. Riedel, who dropped her initial start of the season in a loss to Wisconsin-River Falls last November, has run off a stellar unbeaten string of 20 contests. The Tommies’ defensive effort ended the Golden Gusties’ brilliant streak of 10 consecutive conference titles. Megan Juricko and Paige Baldwin registered the two opening period scores for the No. 7 Tommies.

Plattsburgh (25-1-1) No. 1
Plattsburgh scored a pair of third-period goals in a span of less than three minutes to overtake No. 3 Elmira, 4-3, in the ECAC West title match at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals received markers from Shannon Stewart and the game-decider from Tyne Gove midway through the final stanza. Elmira grabbed a 3-2 advantage early in the third on a goal from Erin Weston. In earning its third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, Plattsburgh outshot the Soaring Eagles 43-20.

Norwich (25-3-0) No. 2
Norwich nabbed its sixth straight ECAC East title in a 4-0 whitewash over Castleton Saturday at Kreitzberg Arena. Tori Charron scored twice for the Cadets, as did senior forward Emily MacKinnon. Charron’s two goals gave her 27 for the season. Charron’s game-winning goal at 5:55 of the second was her team-leading ninth of the season.

At-large selections:

Wisconsin-River Falls (21-4-3) No. 4; Wisconsin-Stevens Point (19-5-4) No. 3; Elmira (21-5-1)

Wisconsin-River Falls secured the prestigious O’Brien Cup with a 5-1 triumph over Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Saturday. From a historical perspective, the Falcons became the initial champion of the WIAC in the process, but the accomplishments did not end there, as head coach Joe Cranston’s club earned a coveted at-large slot in the NCAA’s as well. The Falcons got all they needed in the first period on the strength of a pair of goals by Dani Sibley. The freshman forward from Monticello, MN, hit the back of the net, just 37 seconds into the game. Sibley collected the game winner at the close of the period, with a helper from Ashley Olson. UWF goalie Ashley Kuechle finished with 22 saves. The Falcons will host Lake Forest (17-5-3) in the first round of the playoffs, Saturday at 3 pm. Despite the loss, the Pointers head to the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven seasons. USP will play host to MIAC champions on Friday. Elmira travels to Norwich for a first round matchup on Saturday.

Women’s D-III picks: March. 7-8

Friday, March. 7

NCHA (semifinals)

Adrian at Lake Forest

Lake Forest has won the last two meetings between the two teams; the latest a 6-4 home win in mid-February. The Bulldogs are led by junior, Kelsey Kusch, who tops the nation in scoring with 47 points and 22 goals. The Foresters counter with Michelle Greeneway who has 29 goals; including nine power play tallies. Home ice is a definite advantage this time. Lake Forest 5-4

St. Norbert vs. St. Scholastica     (Alumni Memorial Rink, Lake Forest)

St. Scholastica’s power play is stunningly efficient at a rate of 31.6. The Saints have won two of three games season against the defending conference champions; the Green Knights. Most recently however, it was St. Norbert’s 2-1 win over the Saints, last month that denied St. Scholastica a share of the NCHA regular season crown. St. Norbert 4-3

Saturday, March 8

ECAC-West (semifinals)

Utica at Plattsburgh

Utica comes into weekend action with a 0-6-0 slate against ranked teams. In two regular season meetings, Cardinals goalie Sydney Aveson posted back to back shutouts over the Pioneers. Plattsburgh is the lone team in the nation with a goals per game average of 5.00. The journey continues for the Cardinals. Plattsburgh 5-1

Oswego vs. Elmira     (Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena, Plattsburgh)

Junior, Ashley Ryan is within reach to become the ninth player in Elmira history to reach 100 career points. Ryan has produced seven points in her last for games for the Soaring Eagles who won both meetings with the Lakers this time around. Elmira 4-1


ECAC-East (championship)

Castleton at Norwich

A strong second half has provided the Spartans with a wealth of confidence in taking on the playoff seasoned Cadets who have won their last 15 games. Castleton goalie Paula Stephens made 37 stops in a closely played 2-1 loss to Norwich, last November. In that loss, a power play goal sealed the fate of the Spartans. In order to carve out, what would become a significant moment in program history; the Spartans must be penalty free throughout. Norwich 3-2


Gustavus Adolphus at St. Thomas

The Golden Gusties enter the quest for an automatic bid to the NCAA’s with a 6-5-2 record against ranked teams. Sophomore goalie Lindsey Hibbard was in net in the last meeting with the Tommies; making 28 saves in a 3—1 loss. The previous evening however, GA benefitted from a three-goal first period on the way to a 5-1 home victory. Gustavus Adolphus 3-2



Women’s D-III wrap: March 2

The NESCAC was the focal point for a pair of major upsets, while other favorites were taken to the brink in similar fashion.

Top-seeded Middlebury’s bid to return to familiar territory, an NCAA tournament slot, came to an unforeseen halt at the hands of unheralded Connecticut College in the NESCAC quarterfinals Saturday at Kenyon Arena. Justina Germano capped the significant victory with her third goal of the season at 10:00 of overtime. The No. 4 Panthers ran up a sizzling 14-0-3 record in conference, but must now rely on an at-large bid for an opportunity to suit up again. Middlebury held a 40-20 shots-on-goal advantage over the eighth-seeded Camels, who received a strong performance from junior keeper Kelsie Fralick.  The Panthers failed to connect on all nine power-play chances afforded them. Fralick stopped six Panthers shots in the OT. Middlebury’s leading scorers, Emily Fluke (14-13-27) and Katie Sullivan (12-11-23), did not dress for the Panthers. The Camels, who trudged through a 4-9-3 conference record this season, posted one victory over a previously ranked club, a 5-4 triumph at home against Amherst. Connecticut College’s most significant road win of the year arrived in its last regular season game against Williams.

Outshot 45-10, seventh-seeded Colby slipped past second-seed Amherst, 3-2. Freshman Jess Barkley’s marker with 1:18 left in regulation, with helpers by Delaney Flynn and Samantha Slotnick, guaranteed the Mules a semifinal date with Bowdoin next week.

Positive results in the quarterfinals did not play out angst-free for Williams, as Hanna Beattie’s goal midway through the final period stood as the deciding marker. Trinity (5-6-5) had knotted the score at 2-2 just 36 seconds earlier on a tally by Lauren Glynn. The Bantams came into the postseason with a 0-2-4 record in their last six outings. The Ephs remain the lone team in the upcoming semifinals with a winning record in NESCAC play.

Torrie Charron scored both goals for No. 3 Norwich, including the game-winner in overtime as the top-seeded Cadets prevailed 2-1 over a tenacious Massachusetts-Boston squad in the semifinals of the ECAC East tournament on Saturday at Kreitzberg Arena. Norwich goalie Taylor Fairchild was nearing what would have been her fifth shutout of the season before Samantha Fallon’s score at 18: 16 of the third altered the complexion of the game. Charron’s winning score at 6:20 of the extra period gave her 25 goals for the season.

Castleton, a 5-1 victor over second-seeded Salve Regina, earned its first trip to the conference championship in program history and will head to Norwich next weekend in hopes of gaining an automatic NCAA bid.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point got the best of Wisconsin-Superior in a pair of defensive struggles on home ice. The No. 6 Pointers took 2-1 and 1-0 victories over the Yellowjackets. Megan Menotti made good on a power-play opportunity with 49 seconds remaining in regulation for the game-winner in game two. Janna Beilke-Skoug finished with 54 stops in the two-game set for the Pointers, who will face Wisconsin-River Falls for the O’Brien Cup next Saturday in River Falls.

No. 7 St. Thomas fired 51 shots on Concordia goalie Madison Denny, but required a score from the stick of Hannah Bird in overtime to secure a 4-3 win.

Women’s D-III picks: Feb.28-March. 1

Saturday, March 1

ECAC-East (semifinals)

Massachusetts-Boston at Norwich
The Cadets ran off five consecutive scores from the opening faceoff in a convincing victory over the Beacons in Boston earlier in the season. The Beacons are 9-4-2 since the semester break, but haven’t carved out a win against a ranked team this season. Norwich 6-1

Castleton at Salve Regina
Three weeks ago, the Seahawks and Spartans battled to a scoreless deadlock on Salve’s home ice. Castleton ranks ninth in the nation in defense, while the Salve club holds the same rank in offensive output. Castleton goalie Paula Stephens has played nearly 1,300 minutes this season, recording four shutouts in her last seven starts. Salve’s Sarah Markey and Michaela Chiuccariello are a dangerous power play duo, having combined for 11 goals while skating with an advantage.  The Spartans are playing in only their second semifinal game in program history, while the Seahawks are making their first foray this deep in the playoffs. Scoring opportunities will be at a premium in this one. Salve Regina 2-1

MIAC (semifinals)

Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus
The two clubs closed out the regular season last week with a home-and-home set, each team gaining a road victory. There’s is little wiggle room between the two clubs in terms of statistics. The Golden Gusties rank second nationally in power-play efficiency at 92.4 percent, while the visiting Royals check in third at a 91.4 percent rate. Across the board, similarities are constant. This matchup features a trio of outstanding forwards in Bethel’s Cristina Masten and Lindsay Burman and GA’s Allison Eder-Zdechlik. Postseason experience wins this time. Gustavus Adolphus 4-3

Friday, Feb. 28; Saturday, March. 1

WIAC (Semifinals)

Wisconsin-Superior at Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Wis.-Stevens Point jumps into the series following an unbeaten string of seven games to close out the regular season. Wis.-Superior took a narrow 3-2 defeat on friendly ice at the hands of St. Scholastica to conclude the season. Little has been settled in terms of a clear favorite in the series, as the teams have met on four previous occasions, resulting in a pair of low-scoring ties and a narrow victory for each club. Wisconsin-Stevens Point 2-1, 3-2

Women’s D-III wrap: Feb. 24

Except for a few instances, the final week of the regular season played out true to form. Such was the case for the ECAC East, which jump-started conference playoff action.

Elmira’s sweep of Neumann and Plattsburgh’s back-to-back shutout wins over Oswego allowed both clubs to gain a share the ECAC West regular season title. Elmira senior Tanis Lamoureux, who had three assists on the weekend, concluded the regular season with a single-season high of 23 helpers.  Cardinals’ goalie Sydney Aveson shutdown of the Lakers gave her 13 shutouts for the season.

ECAC East (first round)
Second-seed Salve Regina’s 5-0 win over Plymouth (5-19-2, 3-11-2 ECAC East), served as the first playoff win on home ice in program history. Shannon Coleman’s marker, 6:23 into the opening period, proved to be the decisive goal. The result advances the Seahawks to the quarterfinal round of the ECAC East playoffs. Salve freshmen goalie Colleen Marcik’s 18-save performance was the first shutout for the Seahawks since freshman Rebecca Simmons whitewashed Manhattanville, 1-0, on March 7, 2009.

Madyson Moore registered a pair of goals and an assist and defenseman Kayla Parsons finished with four helpers as Norwich overwhelmed New England College, 8-1, in the postseason opener for the No. 4 Cadets.

Massachusetts-Boston got the best of host Manhattanville in a 3-0 result. Defenseman Kelsey MacIsaac’s goal in the opening period held up as the game-winner. Junior goalie Moe Bradley made 17 stops in gaining her fourth shutout of the year.

Nicoline Jensen’s goal 2:48 into the first period propelled Castleton to a 1-0 triumph over Southern Maine. The Spartans advanced to the semifinals for the second time in program history. Jensen paced Castleton in scoring with 32 points in 26 games this season. The Huskies, who lost their last four outings heading into the matchup with Castleton, were held to just two shots on goal in the third period. Junior Paula Stephens copped her fourth shutout of the season in the win.

Crysta Lowell’s mid-third-period tally helped Wisconsin-River Falls garner its fifth consecutive win in a 4-1 result over Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The Falcons, who earned the top seed in the upcoming O’Brien Cup, improved to 8-2-2 in conference action.

St. Thomas put the finishing touches on the regular season crown, but needed a modicum of assistance from Bethel, which topped Gustavus Adolphus 1-, thus denying the Golden Gusties a share of the conference title. The Tommies finished 14-2-2, while Gustavus Adolphus closed out with a 14-4-0 slate.

D-III at Sochi
Molly Schaus, Team USA backup goalie and goaltending coach at Massachusetts-Boston started one game at the Sochi Olympics; posting a shutout in a 9-0 rout of Switzerland in preliminary round action.

St. Scholastica’s Nina Waidacher averaged 6:36 of ice time for Bronze Medalists, Switzerland at the Sochi Games. The Saints junior forward, finished with three shots on goal to go with -4 rating.

Women’s D-III picks: Feb. 21-22

It’s the final weekend of the regular season in some conferences, while conference playoffs get going in others.

 Saturday, Feb. 22

ECAC East Tournament

No. 8 New England College (3-13-0) at No. 1 Norwich (16-0-0)
The Pilgrims failed to score a goal in two regular season meetings with the Cadets.  A 3-1 upset of Southern Maine earlier this month marked the lone victory for NEC in its last seven games of the season. The Cadets are proficient with an extra skater, ranking third in the nation with a 30.1 success percentage, while the Pilgrims, who have dropped 16 consecutive road games dating back to last season, are second in the nation in average penalty minutes per game. Cadets will take full advantage of any NEC miscues in a first-round triumph. Norwich 6-0

No.5 Massachusetts-Boston (7-8-1) at No. 4 Manhattanville (6-7-3)
Junior forwards Sydney Asselstine and Alla Traun have combined for 10 of the Valiants 15 power-play goals during the regular season. Down the stretch, however, specialty teams have had sporadic results at 4-of-23 in the last five games. The Beacons, who enjoyed a seven-game unbeaten run in early November, have since taken the roller coaster path to the postseason. The Valiants have played at a .500 level on home ice. Massachusetts-Boston 3-2

No. 6 Southern Maine (7-9-0) at No. 3 Castleton (9-5-2)
At 1-8 over their last nine outings, the Huskies have free-fallen from the ranks of the conference standings. USM has managed to find the net just four times in as many games. By contrast, the Spartans have registered four or more goals 10 times this season. Castleton’s lone loss to a conference opponent at home came at the hands of top-seeded Norwich last November. Castleton 5-2

No. 7 Plymouth (3-11-2) at No. 2 Salve Regina (10-5-1)
Head coach Michael Cox, now in his eighth season with the Seahawks, has piloted his club to a program-best winning percentage of .680. Salve has not lost a home game on friendly ice since early in the first half of the season. Cox’s club has benefited from a balanced scoring attack, as 14 players have scored goals. On the defensive side, the Seahawks have received quality starts from freshman goalie Colleen Marcik. The Panthers fell 4-3 in the only meeting between the two clubs. Salve Regina 4-1


 St. Scholastica at St. Norbert
The Saints swept a weekend series on Green Knights’ ice in the first half of the schedule. St. Norbert has an optimum postseason seeding at stake and could swap slots with second-place Lake Forest, providing the Foresters fall to Concordia (Wis.) and Marian on consecutive nights. St. Norbert gets the green light. St. Norbert 4-3

Friday-Saturday, Feb. 21-22


Gustavus Adolphus at Bethel (home-and-home)
The Golden Gusties’ penalty-killing performance ranks just behind Plattsburgh in efficiency, while Bethel checks infourth in the nation at 90.9. Sophomore goalies Lindsey Hibbard of Gustavus Adolphus and Erika Allen of Bethel are among the conference’s leading netminders. A matchup between high-profile scorers Cristina Masten of Bethel and Allison Eder-Zdechlik of Gustavus Adolphus is one to watch. The Royals require a pair of wins and assistance from St. Benedict, who will take on St. Thomas, to have an opportunity to secure the MIAC regular season title. Bethel 4-3, Gustavus Adolphus 3-2

Women’s D-III wrap: Feb. 17

A number of conference races are yet to be resolved, as recent action left questions unanswered.

No significant movement transpired at the top of the conference, as No. 1 Plattsburgh and No.3 Elmira kept pace. The Cardinals overwhelmed Chatham 12-1 and 5-2 in a weekend series, while the Soaring Eagles took a pair of road wins over host Cortland (1-12-1). Oswego, on the strength of a six-game win streak, has advanced to third place with a 10-3-1 conference record. Backed by a solid performance from goalie Bridget Smith, the Lakers topped visiting Utica by identical 2-1 scores over the weekend. Oswego entered the weekend one point ahead of the Pioneers in the ECAC West standings, but currently enjoys a five-point cushion over Utica (8-6-0), which has fallen to fifth place. Potsdam (7-4-3) remains in fourth.

Norwich (No.3) put the finishing touches on a successful weekend, taking down New England College (4-0) and Castleton (4-0) in the process. In Rhode Island, Salve Regina continues to make its presence felt following 3-0, home victories over Manhattanville and Nichols. The Seahawks, 3-1-1 in the month of February, have secured a second seed for the upcoming playoffs, edging out third-place Castleton by one point.

Williams gave unbeaten No.2 Middlebury all it could handle in a crucial weekend home-and-home series. Friday night in Vermont, the Ephs’ Hanna Beattie connected on a power-play goal at 3:54 of the third period, evening the contest at 2-2. The Panthers however, used a holding call by the Ephs at 16:46 as a springboard to collect the game-winner with 2:45 remaining in regulation. Jennifer Krakower beat Williams goalie Chloe Billadeau for the decisive tally. With Billadeau pulled, sophomore forward Michaela Levine’s game-tying bid, with a near open net with 42 ticks left was turned aside by a quickly recovering Panthers goalie Annabelle Jones. Saturday at the Lansing Chapman Rink, Jones and Billadeau were front and center again in a 1-1 tie. Jones (12-0-4) finished with 22 saves and Billadeau had 24 in a tightly played defensive contest. Cristina Bravi’s unassisted score late in the first held up for the home team until the Panthers’ Pam Schulman evened the festivities up at 17:26 in the third with helpers from Katie Mandigo and Madeline Joyce. Williams remains a point behind second-place Amherst in the conference with two games remaining in the regular season.

The status quo at the top of the MIAC standings remained as St. Thomas and Gustavus Aldolphus battled to a weekend split in a home-and-home set. Following a 3-1 loss on Saturday, Gustavus fell to 13-3-0 in the MIAC, while the Tommies, who lost by a 3-1 final the previous night, upped their record 12-2-2 in league play.  St. Thomas will engage in their final regular season series with a home-and-home series with St. Benedict, while the Gusties take on Bethel.

Women’s D-III picks: Feb. 14-15

As expected at this juncture in the season, jousting for conference seeding leaps to the forefront. For a number of teams on the periphery, this is not the time to falter.

Friday, Feb. 14


Manhattanville at Salve Regina
Living under the radar in the first half of the season, the surprising Seahawks ran off a string of nine unbeaten games since mid-January before falling to St. Anselm on the road last weekend in a 2-1 final. With two games remaining, Salve Regina (8-5-1) currently ranks third among the D-III schools in conference play with 17 points. Castleton, whuch faces off against Norwich in its final outing of the season, is a point ahead with an 8-4-2 slate. A win over the Valiants and a subsequent victory over Nichols the following night is a must for the Seahawks in order to gain a loftier seed. Salve took a 3-2 road win in the lone meeting between the clubs, last January. Salve Regina 4-2

Saturday, Feb. 15


Adrian at Lake Forest
Embroiled in a four-team jam in the conference, the result, barring a tie, would slide the winning team into second place behind current top seed St. Scholastica. This will be the third meeting between the two teams at the Alumni Memorial Rink. The season-opening series for both teams resulted in a split. The Foresters enjoy the largest goal differential in the NCHA, while Adrian forward Kelsey Kusch is the leading scorer in the nation. A friendly rink takes it in tight battle. Lake Forest 4-3

Friday-Saturday, Feb. 14-15


No. 8 St. Thomas at No. 9 Gustavus Adolphus (home-and-home)
Deadlocked at the top of the conference standings with 24 points apiece; this series is poised to be the tipping point in deciding the regular season champion. The Tommies watched a 10-game unbeaten string come to a halt last weekend in a 5-3 road loss to Bethel. The Gusties recovered nicely from a pair of upset wins by St. Benedict in sweeping St. Catherine in a home-and-home last weekend. St. Thomas goalie Alise Riedel and counterpart Lindsey Hibbard of Gustavus Adolphus are both ranked among the top eight goaltenders in the nation. Gustavus Adolphus 4-2, St. Thomas 3-2


No. 2, Middlebury at Williams (home-and-home)
Middlebury has a relatively comfortable advantage at the head of the NESCAC standings, while the Ephs hold a skinny, one-point edge over No. 10 Amherst. Williams, 0-2-1 against ranked teams, will need a big weekend from leading scorer Cristina Bravi and her linemates this time out to overcome the Panthers. Middlebury 5-3, 2-1

Women’s D-III wrap: Feb. 10

Then there were two. An undoubtedly tumultuous weekend played out for a number of NCAA tournament hopefuls, resulting in blemishes on the record of three top-10 squads.

Plattsburg and No. 3 Elmira took turns knocking each other from the ranks of ECAC West teams in search of clean slates. The No.1 Cardinals, despite having an advantage in shots on goal by a 37-24 margin in the opener of the weekend series, could not overcome a late first period goal by the Soaring Eagles Cassidy Delaine in a 2-0 loss. Elmira’s triumph marked the first time the Cardinals have allowed a multi-goal game. Elmira goaltender Lisa Marshall withstood a Plattsburgh offensive rush in the third in facing 14 shots by the visitors. On Saturday, an extremely high-powered effort by the Cardinals came to the forefront in a 58-shot, 2-1 overtime victory.

Erin Harper’s breaking of an 11-game, personal goalless string did not bode well for visiting St. Thomas in the opening game of a weekend series with Bethel. Harper, a sophomore defenseman, tapped home a rebound early in the final period that ultimately held up as the game-winner in a 5-3 defeat of the previously unbeaten Tommies, who were 10-0-2 MIAC action. Courtney Umland’s notched the deciding goal in the return matchup on Saturday in a tight 3-2 victory by St. Thomas. Bethel remains four points in arrears to Gustavus Adolphus and St. Thomas, who are both tied with 24 points at the head of the conference.

No. 2 Middlebury took a pair from pesky Connecticut College by scores of 3-2 and 3-0. In the opener, the Panthers were taken to the hilt when Courtney Dumont beat Middlebury goalie Annabelle Jones with 5:54 left in the third. Sara Ugalde broke the deadlock with under a minute to go in the OT, providing the Panthers with a fourth consecutive win. Jones turned away all 22 bids by the Camels the following day in upping her season record to 11-0-3.

Both game-winning goals in Norwich’s successful road trip came as a result of the Cadets’ power play unit. At the Terry Connors rink in Stamford, Conn., Friday, Norwich (No. 4) received a two-goal performance from Vanessa Champagne on the way to a 5-1 win over the Valiants. Champagne connected on the decisive tally early in the third period while her club was skating with an advantage. Taylor Cross did the game-winning honors the next afternoon in a 3-0 whitewash of Nichols, scoring on a power play at 14:06. The Bisons were outshot 58-15 in the loss. Overall, Norwich hit on three of seven power play chances for the weekend. The Cadets moved into third nationally with an efficiency rate of 28.7 percent. On the other side of the ledger, Norwich has killed off 13 of its last 15 short-handed disadvantages. The Cadets are one of six teams nationally that sport a PK percentage at 90 percent or over.

Junior defenseman Kendal Evenson provided No. 5, Wisconsin-River Falls with the conclusive goal in a 3-2 win over No.7 Wisconsin-Superior. In a matchup between two of the nation’s top goaltenders, the Falcons’ Ashley Kuechle prevailed, finishing with 23 stops. Yellowjackets senior Shanley Peters made 33 saves in taking the loss. The Falcons improved to 3-0-1 in head-to-head contests against Superior this year.

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