RIT to meet Norwich for National Championship

Let’s see how far we’ve come…..

On Oct. 29, 2010 RIT and Norwich met at Kreitzberg Arena to open up each other’s respective seasons at Norwich’s inaugural East/West Hockey Classic.

Little did we know at the the time that the Tigers’ 3-1 victory would be a prequel to the eventual 2011 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey National Championship game, which will be played tonight at 7 p.m., this time at RIT’s Frank Ritter Memorial Arena.

I mentioned to a few of my colleagues at the time that RIT looked like they may have finally added the goaltending aspect that they had been lacking over the previous few seasons, which prevented them from taking the next step and jumping over Elmira and Plattsburgh in the ECAC West.

Laura Chamberlain has certainly helped solidify the pipes as the freshman carries a 0.96 goals against average and a .952 save percentage into tonight’s championship game.

The Tigers have also benefited from having three very strong lines with the additions of Kourtney Kunichika (14-27-41) and Kolbee McCrea (20-6-26) to help bolster an offense that already featured two All-American forwards in Katie Stack (20-20-40) and the Laura Hurd Award winner Sarah Dagg (18-24-42).

All in all, the Tigers have three players over 40 points, two more over 30, and three more with at least 25 points.

Norwich doesn’t stack up too shabby offensively either boasting the nation’s top two points scorers with Laura Hurd runner up Sophie Leclerc’s nation-leading 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points and junior forward Julie Fortier who has 23 goals and 21 assists for 44 points.

Fortier tallied a natural hat trick in Norwich’s 5-4 NCAA semifinal win over Gustavus Adolphus and added an assist as well to lead the Cadets to a berth in the national championship game for the second straight year.

On paper when the brackets were drawn up, this is probably the matchup the majority of people expected to see.

Just take a look at some of the storylines heading into tonight’s game:

  • The nation’s top two offenses with RIT scoring 5.17 gpg and Norwich right behind with 4.97 gpg.
  • Four combined All-Americans with RIT’s Sarah Dagg, Katie Stack, and Traci Galbrait, as well as Norwich’s Sophie Leclerc.
  •  The top two Laura Hurd Award finalists in Dagg and Leclerc.
  • A superb rookie goaltender with RIT’s Chamberlain vs. a seasoned senior veteran in Norwich’s Cindy Fortin who also has a chance to win her 50th career game.
  •  The best penalty kill with RIT killing penalties at 95.5 percent vs. Norwich’s second best power play clicking off at 27.1 percent.
  • Then the ultimate storyline, one of these schools is going to win its first ever NCAA D-III Women’s Ice Hockey National Championship.