This Week In D-III Women’s Hockey: Feb. 19, 2009

Cadet’s On The Rise

With R.I.T.’s departure two seasons ago from the ECAC East, many people, myself included, figured penciling Manhattanville in as the conference champion was going to be a forgone conclusion for the next few years.

Somebody forgot to tell Norwich that.

The second year Norwich Cadets have quickly scaled up the ECAC East standings and currently sit in second place out of the Division III teams in the conference. The Cadets started off the season slowly compiling a 5-7 record after Jan. 11. Since then, Norwich has been steamrolling as they are unbeaten in their last 11 games. In those last 11 games, the Cadets have beaten D-II St. Anselm, Southern Maine, and D-I Holy Cross.

“We had a tough schedule in the first half of the season,” said Norwich coach Mark Bolding. “I think it was good in the long run that we did take our bumps and bruises at the beginning of the season because we’ve been working harder as a group to get better. We’ve started to win the close games that we were losing in the first half. Our goal at the start of the year was to go deeper in the league playoffs and we’re setting ourselves up in a good situation to do that.”

Norwich is the lone Division III team to beat Holy Cross this season. They did it in convincing fashion as well beating Holy Cross 5-1 with two empty net goals. The Crusaders lead the ECAC East standings with a 15-2-1 record. However, they are ineligible for the ECAC East playoffs and NCAA playoffs because of their Division I status.

“The Holy Cross win was kind of the feather in the cap for our confidence,” Bolding said. “We finally believed we were on a roll. It was a good game but the keys to winning for us were we won the territory battle and outworked them I thought.”

The Cadets recent hot streak has gone a long way to earning them their first ever NCAA ranking as Norwich sits sixth in the first NCAA regional rankings of the season.

“It makes you feel pretty good to be NCAA ranked for the first time,” Bolding said. “I’m proud of the players as they have added to Norwich’s great hockey reputation and we can sense we’re starting to get where we want to be as one of the cream of the crop teams in Division III hockey.”

Norwich has been led this season by their all everything senior forward Sophie Leclerc. Leclerc has 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points on the season. She also has tallied four game winning goals and four power play tallies as well.

“Sophie is a top level player that brings energy every night,” Bolding said. “She’s tenacious and makes every player around her better. She’s our best fore checker and penalty killer and has really help bring along Julie Fortier. We’ve certainly fed off her during the winning streak.”

Sophomore forward Kelsey Cone has chipped in 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points. The Cadets have received a huge boost this season from their dynamic freshmen trio of Julie Fortier, Amanda Wilks, and Melissa Rundlett.

Fortier has tallied 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points. Wilks leads the country in points for a defensemen with 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points. Rundlett rounds out the top five scorers for the Cadets with 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points.

“They’ve been excellent,” Bolding said. “Fortier is a big kid who is putting up good numbers and has been a threat when Sophie isn’t on the ice. Wilks has been consistent all season and very productive on the power play for us. Rundlett has been a great two way forward and helped add to our depth this season.

This weekend Norwich will have their chance at retribution against Manhattanville on Sunday afternoon. The Valiants topped the Cadets 6-2 earlier this season on Jan. 10.

“We made two huge mistakes in the third period that cost us big time the first time playing Manhattanville,” Bolding said. “It was a 3-2 game going to the third period and then we let it get away from us. We’ll need to play with confidence and try and outwork them. We’ve also got to stay disciplined and not take penalties. They’ll make you pay if you do.”

Remembering Maddy Loftus

The Division III hockey world mourned the loss of a former player in a tragic plane crash that took place near Buffalo, N.Y. last Thursday night. Maddy Loftus, a forward for Buffalo State and St. Mary’s, passed away on the flight. Loftus was traveling to Buffalo State for the team’s alumni weekend festivities.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Maddy’s family and friends that were affected by this tragic accident. My hat is off to Buffalo State and Neumann for still being able to play the two games last weekend.

Here is a link to the story by USCHO.com

Maddy Loftus Killed in Airline Crash

Here is Maddy’s senior salute from the St. Mary’s athletics page that a member of the Division III women’s hockey board posted:
Maddy’s Senior Salute

St. Norbert adding women’s hockey

This week, St. Norbert announced that they will adding a Division III women’s hockey program for the 2010-2011 season. There has been talk over the past few seasons that St. Norbert was interested in women’s hockey, especially since they added the third sheet of ice at the Cornerstone Community Center complex.

The addition of St. Norbert will bump the NCHA membership up to 10 teams in the 2010-2011 season. Next year, the NCHA will add Adrian and Marian to the mix.

Even more importantly, there are now 49 teams that will be playing women’s Division III hockey. We now need three more teams to get us to the magic number of 52, which would bump the NCAA Tournament up to eight teams.

Here’s a link to St. Norbert’s press release:

St. Norbert College Press Release

Around the Country

During the week Stevens Point and Gustavus Adolphus played to a 0-0 tie. The Gusties extended their unbeaten streak to 22 games. However, the big news of the week was Amherst downing Elmira 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday night. The loss put a huge dent in Elmira’s Pool C chances. More than likely the Soaring Eagles will now have to win the ECAC West title on home ice in order to make the NCAA’s.

Other than the Manhattanville/Norwich showdown, Stevens Point and Adrian will meet in a huge two game non-conference series. The Bulldogs have a strong resume already assembled with wins over Gustavus Adolphus, Superior, and River Falls twice. However, two wins or three points against Stevens Point could put them over the top and bump them up to the number two position in the NCAA Western Region rankings.

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