Nine ECAC West Titles. Four National Championships. 11 Frozen Fours. 33 All-Americans.
Those are just some of the numbers that the Elmira and Plattsburgh women’s hockey programs have accumulated over the past nine seasons.
The two programs have developed a fierce rivalry since they both began NCAA Division III play during the 2001-2002 season. Elmira dominated the early years, winning back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003. Plattsburgh took the reins of the series once each program graduated their inaugural classes in 2005 and won back-to-back titles of their own in 2007 and 2008.
The last three years have been pretty even, but Elmira has the slight advantage after winning back-to-back ECAC West titles and making back-to-back Frozen Four appearances while the Cardinals have been sitting at home.
Put that all together and you’ve got one of the best, if not the best, rivalries in all of D-III women’s hockey and the two storied programs will write another chapter this weekend when they collide at Plattsburgh’s Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena on Saturday and Sunday for a pair of league games.
“It’s always exciting when Elmira and Plattsburgh get together,” Elmira coach Greg Fargo said. “There isn’t really much more to say than that. I’m sure it will be a hard-fought weekend and points aren’t going to come easy. We know if we want a shot to earn any points this weekend, we’ve got to bring our best game because that’s what it takes against Plattsburgh every time.”
Coming into this weekend, Plattsburgh holds the slight edge in the all-time series with a 15-14-3 record against the Soaring Eagles.
The Cardinals have been rolling so far this season, compiling a perfect 7-0-0 record heading into the weekend and having surrendered only six goals over that span as well.
Elmira on the other hand, has been searching for an identity so far this season after losing 10 players from last year’s squad. The Soaring Eagles (7-2-1, 5-0-1 ECAC West) have won four in a row though after sweeping Cortland and Utica the last two weekends.
“Our motto since day one has been finding ways to get better every day and to this point in the season we have done that,” Fargo said. “We’re learning lessons every day and hopefully that will translate to success in the end.”
Last weekend, Elmira picked up four crucial league points with a sweep of Utica. However, the Soaring Eagles were five seconds away from losing points twice on Saturday before Tori Charron’s heroics. Charron scored the game-tying goal with five seconds left in regulation and then scored the game-winning goal with five seconds left in overtime.
“She’s been really good for us on the score sheet and finding the back of the net for us here early in the season,” Fargo said of his freshman forward that leads the country with 12 goals. “Her linemates have been giving her good opportunities, but there is no question she’s a dynamic player that can make things happen when she’s on the ice.
“Against Utica, she didn’t make any big fancy plays on either of the goals, but she was in the right place at the right time and was able to tie it and win it for us.”
Fargo said he thought the game shouldn’t have come down to that though, as he said Elmira played two of its best games that they had all season, but just couldn’t pull away from Utica.
“We played a very good hockey game, one of our best to that point,” Fargo said of the Saturday’s 4-3 win over Utica. “But, they got three power-play goals and we made a couple of errors on the penalty kill. We carried the momentum for a majority of the game and I thought we deserved a better fate than having it come right down to the wire, but mentally we found a way to win and that was a huge boost of confidence.”
Elmira’s young roster was thrown right into the gauntlet to start off the season facing New England College and then NCAA runner-up Norwich in the opening weekend at the East/West Hockey Classic in Vermont.
“This season has been a little baptism by fire with the competition we faced at the East/West Classic,” Fargo said. “There is no better way to start of your college career then to play a couple top teams.”
The Soaring Eagles also forged a split with ECAC East powerhouse Manhattanville so far this season. In their last four games, Elmira has recorded three shutouts and Fargo said that the Soaring Eagles will need to keep that same mentality this weekend against Plattsburgh.
“The way we’ve been playing defensively is as good as I’ve seen it since I’ve come in,” Fargo said. “We’ve got to take care of things on our own end and then let the offense come.”