RIT is turning Canadian and Cranston reaches milestone

This past weekend marked the first time that all 49 Division III women’s hockey teams had played a game in the 2011-12 season, with the NESCAC schools finally getting underway. Middlebury and Amherst both held serve with two sweeps, and Bowdoin had a tough loss at Plattsburgh State.

We are now on to Thanksgiving week, and what is usually a relatively quieter week on the D-III women’s front is packed full of interesting games this year.

First up, top-ranked RIT is using the Thanksgiving break to get four extra games in, with a tour through the province of Ontario, Canada to play four Canadian University teams, starting today at 2:30 p.m. when the Tigers take on Western Ontario. RIT is using this road trip as it’s international trip that the NCAA allows college athletic teams to take once every four years.

Plattsburgh is one team off the top of my head that I know has done a trip like this before. The Cardinals did it twice that I found, with one coming during the 2004-05 season and then again in 2007-08. Both years Plattsburgh made the Frozen Four, and in 2008 they went all the way and won their second straight national championship.

The competition RIT will face should be on par with some of the top Division III teams, as Plattsburgh went 2-4 in its six games they played during those two trips. The Tigers will get their stiffest test in their third game when they take on unbeaten Wilfred Laurier (11-0-1), which is currently the second-ranked team in all of Canada. RIT will also play Brock and York as well.

Secondly, it would be remiss to not mention Wis.-River Falls coach Joe Cranston recording his 200th career win on Saturday with a 7-2 win over Wis.-Stevens Point. Cranston has been the only coach in the program’s 13-year history, and he has helped establish the Falcons as one of the premier programs in all of D-III women’s hockey. Cranston is just the third Division III coach to reach the 200-career win milestone, and trails only Gustavus Adolphus’ Mike Carroll and Middlebury’s Bill Mandigo.

Wis.-River Falls Sports Information Directer Jim Thies wrote an outstanding piece highlighting Cranston’s legendary career at UWRF. You can view the story here

Lastly, I got the opportunity to get back home to New York for the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday. I lucked out that Elmira was playing the back end of its two-game series with Utica yesterday at the Murray Athletic Center, so I headed over to Pine Valley to take in the tilt. The Pioneers are a team that have been a thorn in Elmira’s side lately, after they knocked EC out of the ECAC West playoffs in the first round last season. They gave them fits again on Saturday, but Elmira escaped with a 2-1 win.

Sunday’s game wasn’t going much better for Elmira, as Utica got two second period goals to take a 2-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes. However, Elmira scored five third-period goals, including two from the relentless work ethic of Tanis Lamoreuax, en route to a 5-2 comeback victory.

The thing I’d like to make mention about the game though is something that I’ve never seen before pertaining to Utica’s jerseys. Every single player had the word “Pioneers” on the back of their jersey where you would normally see the player’s name on the name plate. I thought this was something pretty unique that Utica head coach Dave Clausen had, and whether it be a coaches’ decision or a players’ decision, hats off to all involved. Very cool concept indeed, and I wonder if there are more teams that might do something of this nature in the future.

As Kurt Russell portraying Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle said, “On my team, the name of the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important on the back.” Utica has taken this to the next level, and now has the team name on the back.