Senior Stacey McConnell scored twice in the second period to lift the No. 1 seed RIT Tigers (22-2-2) over the No. 4 UMass-Boston Beacons (14-12-1) in the semifinal round of the ECAC East women’s playoffs. RIT withstood a pair of late goals by UMass-Boston to hang on to a 5-3 victory and move on to the championship game.
“That is playoff hockey,” said RIT coach Scott McDonald. “We have to play for a full sixty, and we played for fifty-five minutes. We had a five minute lapse and they put two quick ones on us. Give them credit, they kept fighting back and didn’t quit either.”
RIT mounted pressure right from the opening face off of the first period, getting a flurry of shots from in close before UMass-Boston goaltender Jessica Sams froze the puck. Play settled down a little after that flurry as the teams traded opportunities.
The Tigers took the lead at 6:58 just two seconds after a UMass-Boston penalty ended. Isabelle Richard chipped the puck just inside the right post that squeaked past Sams’ pad and in to the back of the net to give RIT the 1-0 lead. The goal maked the 100th point of the junior forward’s career at RIT.
The Beacons almost answered back less than a minute later when Andrea Ciaretta beat RIT goaltender Nicki Werner off a two-on-one breakaway, but the puck bounced harmlessly off the far post.
UMass-Boston came right back up ice and tied the game at 8:26 off a spectacular play by Melissa Wigmore. The Beacons rushed into the Tigers zone up the right side before Wigmore made a quick move to the net and backhanded the puck into the goal over the shoulder of Werner, who had gone down early.
Despite each team having several good chances during the remainder of the period, the score remained tied 1-1 at the first intermission.
RIT took control of the game in the second period, slipping in three goals to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
Danielle Nagymarosi started the onslaught at 2:48 when she slapped in a rebound off a shot by Richard.
Stacy McConnell tallied the next two goals for the Tigers that were mirror images of each other. The first goal came on the power play at 8:02 when McConnell snapped in a wristshot from the left faceoff dot. The second goal was at 18:51 from the right faceoff dot, again on a wrister, but this time at even strength.
“Stacey has been doing that all year,” said McDonald. “She can just take over a game. She comes out big in clutch situations and gets the winners.”
RIT extended its lead five minutes into the third period. Kelley Prom lugged the puck down the left side, cut towards the net, and stuffed the puck in through the short side to score at 4:59.
UMass-Boston tried to stage a comeback by narrowing the margin at 14:13. Melissa Belmonte wound a slapshot from the top of the slot through a crowd and into the top left corner of the net to make it 5-2.
The Beacons scored again at 19:10 when Melissa Wigmore tallied her second goal of the game by stuffing the puck past Werner.
UMass-Boston coach Maura Crowell called her timeout with thirty seconds remaining in the game, keeping Sams on the bench following the timeout.
With the victory, RIT advances to the ECAC East title game.