The Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team travels to Elmira this weekend for the ECAC West semifinal game against Oswego. PSUC swept the Lakers in a weekend series Jan. 24 and 25 by a combined score of 9-1.
The Cardinals are no stranger to playoff hockey. During the past three seasons, the Cards won a national championship and placed third on two occasions in the DIII NCAA women’s hockey tournament.
Sophomore forward Melissa Ames, a member of last season’s championship team, knows playoffs will be a second chance for teams similar to Oswego.
“It’s going to be a tough battle,” Ames said. “We have Oswego first. We’ve already played them, but you can’t underestimate any team.”
Freshman forward Kayla Meneghin emphasized the importance of preparing for the Lakers.
“We look at them the same as we look at anyone else,” Meneghin said. “We just have to take each period one by one.”
College hockey playoffs might be new to Meneghin, but lighting the lamp is something she is familiar with. Meneghin finished the regular season first on the team in scoring with 44 points, third among all DIII women in points per game and first among rookies. Meneghin looks to carry that success with her and her teammates through the playoffs as the goaltending gets stronger.
“I know that Oswego has a really good goaltender,” Meneghin said, “so as long as we test her early and put up shots and get them in, then we’ll be fine.”
Sophomore goalie Camille Leonard has her eyes on the prize as the team prepares for the semifinal matchup. Leonard anchored the Cards through the regular season, finishing with a .938 save percentage and a 1.17 goals against average.
“We’re going to work hard this week in practice,” Leonard said, “and just keep our eye on the end goal, which is to win the national championship.”
If the Cards lose the ECAC West tournament, it’s still possible they make the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA selection committee picks teams to fill the remaining spots in the tournament, but this isn’t a guarantee. As the Cards enter the postseason, Ames said it’s important the whole team comes ready to play.
“We’re going to need every single person on this team, from the bottom to the top,” Ames said. “Everyone’s heart needs to be in it.”
The Cards face a challenge playing in Elmira. Ames equates the rink to playing outside, while Leonard added the rink is dark and cold.
“It’s going to take us awhile to get used to it,” Leonard said, “so it’s a good thing we have a practice there.”
Meneghin doesn’t know the rink like the upperclassmen, but she isn’t worried about her ability or the team’s ability to adapt.
“I know that since we want to win really bad,” Meneghin said, “that we’ll do fine.”
The postseason presents new challenges such as playing on the road in cold rinks, but Leonard is ready for battle with her team.
“Every game from here on out is do or die,” Leonard said. “We’re just going to do our best.”
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