It was a tale of two teams this past weekend. Team A is a rising program looking to make noise in the NCAA tournament this season. Team B is a perennial powerhouse that won the first two NCAA titles but came up empty in the three years since. Team A made its first appearance in the NCAA playoffs last season, making a quick exit in the quarterfinals. Team B made the field for the fifth time in five years of existence and also ended its season one weekend too soon. Team A returns two All-Americans from last season — one is the team’s leading scorer and the other is protecting the net. Team B comes into the season without a single player from the program’s NCAA Championship squads. Team A is the Wisconsin-Superior Yellow Jackets. Team B is the Elmira College Soaring Eagles.
This past weekend these two teams locked up in Flint, Michigan in Finlandia’s Earlybird Tournament. The result was a 4-3 win for the Yellow Jackets, a big win for a team who has struggled against ranked teams over the years.
“It was a big win, not just for our program, but for this year’s team,” said Wisconsin Superior coach Dan Laughlin. “Any time we get a win over a top 10 team it means a lot. In our conference we do not have an automatic bid into the NCAAs, so we can not afford to be playing out best hockey late in the season. We have to play our best hockey every game, because if we lose more than four games, we are not going to the NCAAs.”
The Yellow Jackets opened the scoring when First Team All-American Erin Kegley put the puck past Elmira goaltender Cara McGurry with just under five minutes to play in the first period.
The Soaring Eagles answered early in the second period when freshman Jenna McCall notched the second goal of her career to tie the game at one. However, the tie score would not last long as junior Gina Baranzelli scored her first goal of the year to propel the Yellow Jackets back to a one goal lead.
The Jackets increased their lead before the second intermission when freshman Brianne Mosher tallied her second goal of her career with 1:31 to play in the stanza, giving the Jackets a 3-1 lead heading into the break.
“I told our players that all eyes were on this game, and we needed to come out and win the first five minutes of the third period,” said Laughlin. ‘I thought we did a good job of that.”
The Yellow Jackets would hold the two-goal lead until sophomore Catherine Shears scored a power play goal, cutting the lead to one.
“Once they got that power play goal, they just kept coming at us,” said Laughlin. “They are a great team and they don’t quit.”
The Soaring Eagles tied the game with just over two minutes remaining in the third period when Tory MacNeil, who transferred last season from Middlebury, beat All-American Rikki Nespor to complete to comeback. Laughlin then called a timeout for his players to regroup.
The break turned to be just what the Yellow Jackets needed. With 1:10 left in the game, freshman Brianne Mosher came through in the clutch and scored the game-winning goal, her second goal of the game, giving her team a very important early-season victory.
“We have a really good senior class,” said Laughlin. “The veterans on this team really stepped up this weekend.”
The freshman Mosher stood out among her fellow newcomers this weekend with three goals and two assists in two games. She is part of a freshman class of eight that Laughlin expects will contribute throughout the season.
Yellow Jacket freshmen weren’t the only fresh faces on the ice. The Soaring Eagle class of 2010 also had an impressive weekend. Led by forward Jenna McCall, who amassed five points on the weekend, the Soaring Eagles newcomers have high expectations. Of the eight Soaring Eagle goals, the freshmen class was responsible for half of them. McCall’s two goals, along with one each from Melanie Henshaw and Karen Colehour, give the Soaring Eagles some hope for a great season and a bright future.
When Will They Lose?
The Oswego State women’s hockey team played its first NCAA games two weeks ago against Chatham, winning both by a combined score of 9-1. The Lakers continued their impressive start by tying Cortland State 3-3 on Sunday. While they ended up with a tie, the Lakers certainly came to play, outshooting the Red Dragons 46-25.
The Lakers may not be able to compete on the national scene yet, but they are clearly making great strides in reaching that level by getting through their first three games without a loss. At 2-0-1, the Lakers head to western New York this weekend to face the Buffalo State Bengals. While the Bengals have yet to reach the national tournament, a weekend sweep by the Lakers would show that they have come to play.