D-III Women’s Championship Looks as Unpredictable as Ever

After a one year hiatus, the Division III Women’s championship returns to its unofficial home, the Murray Athletic Center in Elmira. This was the site of the first two years the NCAA sanctioned a national championship for women and is now the host for the third time in four years.

Elmira won the national championship both times as the host and No. 1 seed, defeating Manhattanville both times, 2-1 and 5-1, respectively. Last year, Middlebury, though not the top seed, hosted the final weekend and won top honors, defeating UW-Stevens Point, 2-1. Middlebury also won the unofficial national championship in 2000 and 2001 when the AWCHA sanctioned the event.

In those previous tournaments, though there may not have been a clear-cut favorite, the winner was no surprise and looking back at those fields, only one team really had a shot at winning the crown outside of the eventual champion. Not this year.

The regular season results show that anyone is capable of beating anyone. The three eastern teams literally beat up on each other. Elmira and Plattsburgh split their regular season meetings before the Soaring Eagles beat the Cardinals in overtime in the ECAC West title game. Take away the overtime goal, and that series is a push.

Plattsburgh and Middlebury split their two games, another push.

Elmira beat Middlebury, but that was in overtime. Middlebury beat Gustavus Adolphus, but that too was in overtime. Quite frankly, in 60 minutes of hockey, all four combinations are a push.

The most intriguing matchup is the second semifinal game between Elmira and Plattsburgh. As if a rivalry that wasn’t already red hot needed to have some gasoline poured on it. Every game they played this year was 2-1. They tied for first place in the ECAC West. Interestingly, all three games were at Elmira, just like this fourth game.

Elmira will be looking to send out its inaugural senior class in style, a class that may be unmatched in college sports history. They weren’t just freshmen on a team, they were freshmen on a freshman program, and they proceeded to win a national championship in their first two years of existence.

Plattsburgh’s senior class is also a class that equals the age of their program. However, they have had to play in the shadows of their league rival. They finally made the championship weekend last year, winning the consolation game. Now they want to go out with their program’s first title.

Make a prediction? Not on your life.

Some people are saying the second semifinal game is really for the national championship. Don’t tell that to the teams in the afternoon game, for taking them lightly is done at your own risk. For an East-West matchup, it happens to be one where the teams played each other during the regular season. That game, played at UW-River Falls, was won by Middlebury in overtime.

Middlebury knows how to win. A tradition they share with the men. And, for the second year in a row, they can produce a double national championship on the ice. Nerves? Not from the Panthers.

Meanwhile, Gustavus Adolphus, as the lone western representative, would also love to be the first western team to win the national championship.

“Our kids are really looking forward to it,” Gustavus Adolphus coach Mike Carroll said. “They’re really pumped.”

Semifinal games are on Friday, March 18 at 3:30 and 7:00. Saturday features the consolation game at 3:30 and the championship game at 7:00. Tickets can be bought at the Murray Athletic Center starting at 1:00 each day. Single-day tickets are $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for students. Two-day tickets for adults are $20.00 and $10 for students.

For further information, call (607) 735-1730.

If you can’t make it to the games, stay with USCHO as we bring you complete tournament coverage.

Elmira Soaring Eagles

Record: 23-3-0 (ECAC West: 11-1-0, tied first place, won
conference tournament)
Key Wins: Manhattanville (4-2), Plattsburgh (2-1 and 2-1, OT),
Rensselaer (3-2), Middlebury (3-2, OT)
Key Losses: Manhattanville (2-0), Plattsburgh (2-1)
NCAA Quarterfinal: Bye
Coach: Paul Nemetz-Carlson (2nd year, 41-11-2)
Previous NCAA Appearances: 3
Last NCAA Appearance: 2004
Best NCAA Finish: National Champion (2002 and 2003)
Key Stats: longest current winning streak at 13
Players To Watch: Laura Hurd (nation’s leading points scorer per game at 2.19 with 24 goals and 33 assists for 57 points), Jaclyn O’Neil (12-28–40), Lindsay Palmer (11-17–28), LeAnne Denman (defenseman with 4-12–16), Edith Racine (1.14 GAA, .944 save pct., eight shutouts)
Internet Broadcast: WELM
and MSA Sports Network

Gustavus Adolphus Golden Gusties

Record: 24-3-1 (MIAC: 17-1-0, first place, won conference tournament)
Key Wins: Stevens Point (6-4 and 3-0), St. Thomas (6-3 and 3-2,
2OT), Superior (5-4)
Key Losses: Middlebury (4-3, OT), Stevens Point (5-1), St.
Thomas (2-1)
NCAA Quarterfinal: defeated Stevens Point, 3-0
Coach: Mike Carroll (6th year, 124-39-9)
Previous NCAA Appearances: 2
Last NCAA Appearance: 2004
Best NCAA Finish: third place (2002)
Key Stat: top penalty kill in the nation at 97.5%
Players To Watch: Andrea Peterson (nation’s leading scorer with 59 points on 30 goals and 29 assists, and she’s a defenseman), Kelly Crandall (20-27–47), Laura Stypulkowski (16-30–46), Molly Doyle (nation’s top rookie scorer with 18-26–44), Ingrid Neve (four shorthanded goals)
Internet Broadcast: Teamline

Middlebury Panthers

Record: 24-3-1 (NESCAC: 14-1-1, second place, won conference
Key Wins: Bowdoin (3-0 and 5-1), Gustavus Adolphus (4-3, OT), St.
Thomas (2-0), Plattsburgh (3-2)
Key Losses: Plattsburgh (4-2), Bowdoin (5-2), Elmira (2-0)
NCAA Quarterfinal: defeated Manhattanville, 3-2, OT
Coach: Bill Mandigo (17th year, 300-84-11)
Previous NCAA Appearances: 3
Last NCAA Appearance: 2004
Best NCAA Finish: National Champion (2004)
Key Stat: top power play in the nation at 26.9%
Players To Watch: Emily Quizon (nation’s third leading scorer at (16-36–52), Lorna Gifis (25-18–43 and 10 power play goals), Alison Graddock (12-16–28), Shannon Tarrant (defenseman with 7-19–26), Karen Levin (defenseman with 6-20–26), Kate Kogut (1.45 GAA, .931 save pct., six shutouts)
Internet Broadcast: Teamline

Plattsburgh Cardinals

Record: 21-5-1 (ECAC West: 11-1-0, tied first place, runnerup
conference tournament)
Key Wins: Elmira (2-1), Middlebury (3-2), Manhattanville (3-2)
Key Losses: Elmira (2-1 and 2-1, OT), Middlebury (3-2)
NCAA Quarterfinal: defeated Bowdoin, 9-4
Coach: Kevin Houle (2nd year, 43-11-3)
Previous NCAA Appearances: 1
Last NCAA Appearance: 2004
Best NCAA Finish: third place (2004)
Key Stat: second best penalty kill in the nation at 96.2%
Players To Watch: Elizabeth Gibson (22-22–44 with four
shorthanded goals), Jenn Clarke (18-20–38), Jamie Longo (14-15–29), Jessica Moreau (19-9–28), Chantalle Rye (defenseman with 3-16–19), Carolyn Roy (1.39 GAA, .929 save pct.)
Internet Broadcast: WIRY