This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: March 5, 2010

Not-So-Instant Classic

You didn’t miss that epic overtime game played last Sunday, did you?

No, not the one that Sidney Crosby ended barely eight minutes into extra time. We refer, of course, to the mammoth endurance test between RPI and Quinnipiac in the ECAC quarterfinals, the one settled by the Engineers’ Laura Gersten early in the fifth overtime period.

That’s right, friends. Five OT’s.

Gersten’s lazer into the upper corner past Quinnipiac goalie Victoria Vigilanti spanned 144:32 of game time, wore on for 5:13 of real time, and pushed RPI into a semifinal meeting with league champions Cornell.

All in one blurry instant.

“I didn’t remember what happened,” said Gersten, “until we saw the video. People were asking me how I got the puck, and I had no idea. I just remember seeing it go in, and finding the first teammate I could (to embrace).”

Coming as it did in the rubber match of a best-of-three series, Gersten’s goal served to keep RPI’s season alive while at the same time finishing off the Bobcats.

The previous two games had also been nailbiters, with the “Q” prevailing in double-overtime in Game 1, while RPI’ s Sonja van der Bliek outdueled Vigilanti in a 1-0 thriller on Saturday.

“It was a do-or-die game,” Gersten said. “You had to make up your mind that you were going to keep going. We were all doing that. It was just a great game to be a part of. Both for us and for Quinnipiac.”

Gersten said that the longer the game trudged on, the giddier everyone became.

“Between periods, we were saying we’d buy ice cream for whoever scored,” she said. “We’d say ‘let’s play musical chairs. I’m sick of sitting next to the same person all the time.’ We were just laughing. We didn’t even turn music on. We were too tired.

“I don’t know if we were delusional, or just tired.”

The longer the stalemate held, the more historic matters became. As the ice chips fell, so, too, did the old marks for the longest NCAA games played by either gender.

A sense of history had begun to settle in.

“After about the third overtime,” Gersten said, “some of us said, ‘this has got to be getting up there. We knew that our (double-overtime) Princeton game last year was about sixth (longest). It was definitely talked about.”

Even so, when Gersten scored, the game fell 1:03 short of the all-time endurance test, a pre-NCAA affair between between Providence College and UNH for the ECAC title back in 1996.

Somehow, the Engineers didn’t mind missing out on that one. They’d had enough of a taste of history to last them the rest of their lives.

Gersten said that what she expects to recall most vividly is not the winning goal, or the fatigue, or the tension.

It will be sharing the whole experience with her teammates.

“I’ll probably remember the locker room, the most,” she said. “More so than even the game. The girls. Getting to share that moment with 20 or so girls was just amazing. I think I’ll be telling my kids, or whoever, about the atmosphere in the locker room. How funny it was. It was just a great hockey moment for all of us.”

Changing of the Guard

Could we be witnessing a sea change in the WCHA? Seeing defending national champs Wisconsin fail to get past the league quarterfinals might be one indicator. Another possible sign came Thursday, when the league’s Player of the Year award was handed down, and it was split two ways.

And neither player came from the so-called Big Three schools (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth) which have dominated the league (and the NCAA for that matter) since the inception.

The honorees are forward Felicia Nelson of St. Cloud and Bemidji goalie Zuzana Tomcikova. Oddly enough, Tomcikova did not win the league’s Goalie of the Year honors. That, instead, went to Minnesota freshman Noora Raty.

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