Cinderella is alive and well.
With a 2-1 triple overtime victory over three-time defending National Champion Middlebury, the Amherst Lord Jeffs earned themselves the glass slipper for this year’s NCAA playoffs.
When Anna MacLean put the puck past Panther goalie Lani Wright, the 101 minute, 54 second marathon came to end. However, the real story of the game was on the other end of the ice. Freshman goaltender Krystyn Elek stopped a ridiculous 65 of the 66 shots she faced. Her performance was the main reason that Amherst skated away with the NESCAC Championship and a bid into the NCAAs.
Late Sunday night, Amherst and the rest of the country got word of who was in and who was left out of the D-III tournament. After the games were over, it was pretty clear who would make the field. There was no controversy because the aforementioned Panthers, as well as RIT both lost their respective conference tournaments. Since those two teams had such strong regular seasons, they were locks for the two Pool C bids. As a result, teams like Elmira, Wisconsin-Superior, and Utica were left home.
The five-two split favoring the east also allowed Plattsburgh, the top-ranked team in the country, to host the final rounds of the NCAA tournament next weekend. This weekend, the 25-0-2 Cardinals have a bye and will await the winner of the Amherst at RIT match-up. On the other side of the bracket, Middlebury will host Manhattanville. The Valiants upset RIT in the ECAC East Championship game. The winner of that game will meet up with either Gustavus Adolphus or Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the semifinals.
With the NCAA Quarterfinals commencing this weekend, let’s take a look at the three games on the slate.
Amherst @ RIT
The Lord Jeffs enter into the weekend coming off the emotionally driven victory over Middlebury. They are riding an 8-game unbeaten streak and are 16-1-3 since their 3-4-0 start to the season. Another interesting fact is that their last three wins have all come in overtime. They have shown that they can handle pressure and have the goalie to back them up when a defensive breakdown does occur.
Offensively, they are led by sophomores Tarasai Karega (17-16-33), Anna MacLean (15-17-32), Lindsey Harrington (15-15-30), and freshman Kate Dennett (12-16-28). They are scoring 3.63 goals per game and have only been shutout once this season — a 1-0 loss to Middlebury on Dec. 2.
The strong point of their team though remains goaltending. Specifically Cinderella herself, Krystyn Elek. Elek stands at 14-4-3 with a 1.60 goals against average. She has a save percentage of .940 and was named First Team All-NESCAC.
On the Tigers’ side, they boast one of the most potent offenses in the country. Averaging 4.67 goals per game, RIT is led by the nation’s leading point producer Danielle Nagymarosi (32-29-61), junior Isabelle Richard (21-31-52), and sophomore Maegan Geypens (16-25-41). The also have one of the nation’s top offensive defenseman in senior Stacey McConnell (11-25-36).
In goal, freshman Karen Quigley has an 11-3-1 record, allowing two goals per game. Senior Nikki Werner has also seen time this season, finishing 8-0-1 with a goals against average of 0.77. Combined, the Tigers have shut out nine opponents this season.
Of all the games this weekend, this matchup is the most interesting. A 22-3-2 Tiger squad, who is 2-2-0 against teams in the tournament, is facing off against an Amherst team who is 1-2-1 against tournament teams. RIT has been tough to beat all season, but failed to win its conference championship, while Amherst has been nearly flawless in 2007 and has proven it can beat anyone in the country. Fasten your seatbelts, this one could take a few overtimes to decide.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point @ Gustavus Adolphus
A week ago, not many people would have guessed that these two teams would be competing against each other this weekend. With victories over Wisconsin-River Falls and favorite Wisconsin-Superior in the NCHA playoffs, the Pointers jumped ahead of the Yellowjackets in the Pool B race.
The Pointers are led by goaltender Amy Statz, who earlier this season set the all-time career wins record for Division III goaltenders. Statz has a record of 15-5-2 and a goals against average of 1.87.
If there is a difference between this year’s Pointer team and last year’s edition, it is the goal scoring. The team is averaging 3.88 goals per game this season, almost a full point higher than last year. Led by sophomores Nicole Grossmann (15-11-26) and Michelle Sosnowski (12-9-21), the Pointers’ offense is improving. However, if they expect to win this game, they will need to be clicking on all cylinders.
Their opponent Gustavus Adolphus can score. Not often is a team this successful when two of their top three point producers are defensemen. Andrea Peterson (11-26-37) and Margaret Dorer (9-23-32) provide power from the blueline and forwards Kelly Crandall (17-16-33) and Molly Doyle (18-9-27) provide more spark to the explosive offense.
The Gusties aren’t too shabby in goal either. Oddly, four of their goalies have played in 8 games or more this season. Freshman Sarah Windhorst (10-0-0) and Breanna Scavo (7-1-0), along with senior Kitty Hurley (5-1-0) have carried the Gusties throughout the season. Sophomore Amanda Rosequist (3-0-0) has also been reliable when called upon.
If the Pointers expect to win this game they will have to play solid defense and capitalize on their chances. The Gusties are a formidable opponent and will not be defeated easily.
Manhattanville @ Middlebury
Is the third time really the charm? If so the Valiants should have a good feeling entering Friday night’s game. The last two years, Manhattanville’s seasons have ended on Middlebury’s ice in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Hoping for payback, the young Valiants will have their work cut out for them. The team without a senior has put up a record of 19-7-1 and surprised many by defeating RIT for the ECAC East title.
The Valiants are led offensively by juniors Amanda Nonis (16-16-32) and Jamie Longo (13-18-31) and sophomore Alex Blackwell (16-15-31). However, what doesn’t show in statistics is that in their five games against tournament teams, they are 1-4-0 and scored just six goals. They were shutout four times this season and 39 of their 105 goals came in four games.
Karine Turmel has seen the bulk of the action between the pipes, posting an 11-5-1 record, allowing 2.05 goals per game. Freshman Sophia Kokkonis has also seen action going 7-2-0 with a 1.22 goals against average.
When it comes to the three-time defending NCAA champion Panthers, the strongest part of their team has turned out to be their biggest question mark entering the season — goaltending. Junior Angie Todd has amassed a 9-1-2 record, a 1.10 goals against average, and a save percentage of .936. She has been complimented by freshman Lani Wright who broke out on the scene compiling a record of 11-2-0, a goals against average of 1.70, and a .912 save percentage.
The Panthers’ offensive weapons have woken after slow start. Seniors Abby Kurtz-Phelan (15-21-36) and Shannon Sylvester (14-18-32) are joined by sophomore Annmarie Cellino (13-18-31) as the key players in the Middlebury attack.
The favorite in this game is without a doubt Middlebury; however, as we saw this past weekend, anything is possible.