The Remaining Two Conference Champions
Two more league champions were crowned last weekend, both in the East.
Manhattanville won the ECAC East title by defeating Rensselaer, 3-1, outshooting the Engineers, 46-16, in the process. The Valiants jumped out to a 1-0 first period lead on a goal by Cherie Stewart, and added two more in the second by Jami Grasby and Lindsey Paulsrud. Christina Jankowski scored a late meaningless goal for Rensselaer. Renee Kirnan got the win with 15 saves.
The NESCAC championship game was the matchup everyone was hoping for. After Middlebury and Bowdoin played to two ties during the regular season, it was time to finally settle it once and for all. The first period was more of the same — no goals and eight shots each.
Middlebury finally took control of the rivalry, by scoring three times in the second, en route to a 4-0 shutout over the Polar Bears. Goals were scored by Jean Butler, Hannah Delong, Gloria Velez, and Lorna Gifis. Kati Madouros made 31 saves in the win.
So, It’s Elmira After All
After my insistence, my sure fire prediction, that there was no way Elmira would get to host the Women’s Division III Frozen Four even if they were seeded number one … the NCAA selection committee picked Elmira.
Although I have not investigated every sport in every year, I have yet to find a scenario where a school was picked to host a championship two years in a row when there was not a predetermined site. Now, not only did they pick Elmira for the second consecutive year, the women have only had an NCAA national championship for two years. Thus, Elmira, so far, has been the home to every Women’s Division III Frozen Four.
I should have known. I should have known that the NCAA selection committee can make the UN Security Council look sane.
However, to the committee’s credit, they did a very good job in selecting the field, seeding the teams, and in hindsight, picking the host.
Am I disappointed? Well, actually, not really. Though we journalists are supposed to be objective, the fact of the matter is, I was secretly hoping Elmira would get picked. This means instead of a 500-mile trip to cover the games, I can now commute from my house, sleeping in my own bed every night next to my lovely wife.
As for those Elmira fans who would like to serve me crow, I really believe you should buy me a beer instead. Why? Because, I pulled the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. By my absolute certainty that it was not going to be at Elmira, I virtually guaranteed it.
NCAA Quarterfinal Previews
Is it just me, or does anyone else find the notion of three quarterfinal games an oxymoron?
Middlebury (19-2-4) at Bowdoin (21-1-3)
As a sports fan, I don’t like this matchup. Not one bit.
I never like it when two teams play a key game, and then they repeat it the very next game they play. It reminds me of the year before last when the New York Jets went to Oakland in the last game of the season needing to win to get into the playoffs. They did, and their reward was to return to Oakland one week later for the more important game, and promptly lost.
Middlebury went into Bowdoin for the NESCAC championship. The Panthers won. Their reward is to return to Bowdoin for the more important game. This type of scenario never seems to favor the team in Middlebury’s position. And as a fan, my emotions were already used up the week before; it is hard to get up for a rematch.
Of course, we are talking about Middlebury vs. Bowdoin, the two powerhouses in NESCAC the past two years. So, maybe this situation is a little bit different. If you can’t get excited about a Middlebury-Bowdoin game, there’s not much that can excite you.
Middlebury certainly has a huge incentive — despite winning the only two AWCHA national championships and putting together an unbeaten streak like none other, they did not make it to the first NCAA tournament. They would certainly like to correct that this year.
Though they finished second to Bowdoin in the standings due to more ties, they still had an excellent season with their only two losses to Elmira (4-2) and Manhattanville (1-0). Along the way, they’ve beaten Plattsburgh, Williams twice, Gustavus Adolphus, and of course Bowdoin.
The Neil twins, now seniors, continue to be a force for the Panthers. Amber is second in team scoring with 20 goals and 10 assists while Erin has nine goals and 14 assists. Angela Kapus leads the team with 19 goals and 35 assists. These three were key players in those championship years who would love to add an NCAA title to their resume.
Backstopping Middlebury are Kati Madouros and Kate Kogut, who have split duties throughout the year. They’ve helped keep the opposition to just 1.16 goals per game, while the Panthers offense was scoring 5.08 goals per game.
Bowdoin did make it to the NCAA Frozen Four last year, but lost both games. Not only would they like to get back, they would like to do better. First, they must find a way to beat Middlebury, something they haven’t done this year. They have beaten Williams twice, Plattsburgh, and St. Thomas, as well as tied Elmira. In fact, their only loss this season was that Middlebury game.
Shelly Chessie leads the way with 20 goals and 29 assists, while Marissa O’Neil, Beth Muir, Kirsti Anderson, and Gillian McDonald all have double digit goals to their credit. Bowdoin scores a nice even five goals per game.
They let up goals at the same minimal pace as Middlebury, 1.16 per game. Emily McKissock sees most of the action between the pipes, with a 1.24 GAA and .937 save percentage.
Both of these teams are ones you want to see in the Frozen Four, but only one will make it to Elmira. Which is another reason why I don’t like this matchup, at least not in the quarterfinal round.
Williams (16-8-2) at Manhattanville (25-3-0)
This is another interesting matchup. On paper, one would say that Manhattanville is the favorite. However, you take Williams lightly at your own risk.
Williams played a very tough schedule this year, and did extremely well with it. For starters, they tied Elmira, 1-1, one of only two Div. III teams not to lose to the Soaring Eagles. Williams also beat River Falls (2-1 in overtime), Stevens Point (2-1 in overtime), and St. Thomas (5-1).
The majority of their losses to top teams have been by one or two goals: Plattsburgh (2-1), Middlebury (1-0, a 1-1 tie, and a 3-2 loss in the NESCAC semifinal), Bowdoin (3-2 and 3-1), and Gustavus Adolphus (3-1).
Then there is the one matchup against Manhattanville which they lost 3-2 way back in November.
So, if Manhattanville looks past Williams, the Ephs will most likely be moving onto Elmira.
Though she has been slowed down by injuries this year, Williams still has Molly Wasserman as their go to person and she still leads the team in goals (14) and assists (12). The players’ stats behind her drop off considerably. In fact, offense is not where Williams excels at, averaging a modest 2.77 goals per game.
Defensively, on the other hand, is certainly a strong point, as they have let up only 1.46 goals per game. Only once did they let up more than three goals per game, and they let up two or less in 20 of their 26 games. A lot of that is thanks to senior Monelle Quevillon who has racked up a 1.36 GAA and .932 save pct.
Manhattanville does know how to score goals, even if you take into account its numbers are a bit inflated thanks to some of the teams in their conference. Nonetheless, it’s still an impressive 6.71 goals per game. They have 8 players with double digit goals led by Jennifer Mulick (21), Amy Quirion (19), and Kristin Sahlem (18).
Like Williams, the Valiants are stingy on defense, but even more so. They let up just 0.79 goals per game, including 14 shutouts, and have let up three goals just twice, both of them losses (Wayne State, 3-1, and RIT, 3-2). Their only other loss was to Elmira (2-1).
Like last year, goaltending duties are split evenly between sophomore Nicole Elliott (0.71 GAA and .954 save pct.) and junior Renee Kirnan (1.04 GAA and .938 save pct.).
Manhattanville also played a strong nonconference schedule, beating Middlebury (1-0), Gustavus Adolphus (2-1), Rensselaer three times, and of course the aforementioned Williams game.
This will most likely become a defensive battle, thus it will be up to Manhattanville’s offense, any one of it’s many productive lines, to break through and move the Valiants into their second consecutive Frozen Four.
However, they must not take Williams lightly.
St. Thomas (19-6-2) at Wis.-River Falls (19-4-4)
This is an intriguing matchup for different reasons. Both St. Thomas and River Falls represent conferences that in the past have seen different teams dominate.
St. Thomas replaces Gustavus Adolphus and St. Mary’s at the head of the pack in the NCHA. River Falls took over the top spot from Stevens Point after the Pointers’ marvelous season one year ago, in the MIAC.
These schools did play each other twice this year. St. Thomas won early in the season, 1-0. Two months later, River Falls returned the favor, 4-2. Both teams have beaten good opponents and lost to good teams, though St. Thomas was upset by Wis.-Superior.
Both of these teams do not have the offensive power of the Eastern teams: 3.89 goals per game for St. Thomas and 3.19 for River Falls. St. Thomas has a modest defense, letting up 2.41 goals per game while River Falls is at an impressive 1.44. One interesting stat is River Falls does not have a single shorthanded goal, while the Tommies have five.
River Falls is led by goalie Marlene Yaeger who has seen nearly all the action this year building up a .942 save pct. and 1.51 GAA. Up front, only two players have double digit goals, Ali Slinden (18) and Lindsay O’Keefe (11).
Meanwhile, St. Thomas has five players with double digit goals led by freshman Maureen Hardwick with 22. In the nets, Becky Kilpatrick and Danielle Mikolai share the duties, both with above two GAA and a save pct. below 90.
On the surface, the edge appears to be in River Falls’ favor. The Falcons do come into this game with a bit more momentum, having won their last seven games and gone 9-0-2 in their last eleven. Meanwhile, St. Thomas has struggled down the stretch, going 5-4-1 in their last ten.
However, of all the games, this is the one I would least likely be willing to bet on.
One thing is for sure, whoever wins the game may have a very short period of joy because what awaits them in the semifinal round is none other than Elmira.