By Liam Sample
The No. 2 SUNY Plattsburgh women’s hockey team began their North Eastern Women’s Hockey League (NEWHL) playoffs with a statement 8-0 win in the semi-finals over the fourth seeded Potsdam Bears at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena March 1.
The Cardinals are attempting to win their fourth consecutive NEWHL title, since the league has only existed since 2017,so they are trying to make it nine straight conference titles. Because the 2020 and 2021 National Tournament were canceled due to COVID-19, Plattsburgh is still the reigning national champion, winning the chip in 2019.
With this win, Plattsburgh extended their winning streak to seven and have not lost since Nov. 28, having a 18-game unbeaten streak. Potsdam finished the season with a 9-15-1 record and struggled tremendously from the first puck-drop.
After the starting faceoff, junior forward Ivy Boric left the puck for graduate student forward Annie Katonka, who charged forward with senior forward Sara Krauseneck on a two on one. Katonka sent a long pass to Krauseneck in the slot, who shot it over the opposing goalie’s left pad only 22 seconds into the game.
Two and a half minutes later, the Cardinals were set up in Potsdam’s zone. Graduate student defender Erin McArdle shot it from the point that was saved and played into the near corner. Boric chased after it, skating it over the red line and taking an accurate shot top shelf to put her team up 2-0 less than three minutes into the game. She finished the game with three points. This goal came on the power play, expanding on the team’s national-best .356 percentage.
Plattsburgh continued their early goal push with another one less than a minute later. Again in the offensive zone, Katonka made a steal in the corner. She took advantage of open ice near the net, skating the puck into the close red circle and firing a top shelf shot to put the Cards up three under four minutes into the game. Katonka, who was awarded NEWHL Player of the Year for the second straight season, leads all of Division III in goals and tallied another.
“It was a good first game, but we need to be better defensively moving forward.” Katonka said. “I thought it was good to get a lead and protect it.”
For the Bears, sophomore goaltender Ellie Zurfluh made the start. After boasting a career high 56 saves against Plattsburgh Feb. 12, she saved 43 in this one while allowing eight. She finished her first collegiate season with a 7-10-1 record. On the other side, junior Chloe Beaubien stood tall for Plattsburgh. She had 25 saves for her third straight shutout. She is a perfect 10-0-0 this season.
The Cardinals would get back onto the scoresheet in the second period. On the 2-on-1, Boric sent a centering pass to Krauseneck, who found the back of the net for her second of the day. Krauseneck is second on the team in points with 51, good for the fourth highest in the country.
She was announced to be NEWHL All Conference First-Team, along with Katonka, McArdle, and Senior Defender Sierra Benjamin. For The Second Team, senior forward Nicole Unsworth made a spot. The Cardinals had the most all conference players with five total, Cortland was in second with four.
Only forty seconds after Krauseneck’s second, Unsworth would get her own. After graduate student Kaitlin Drew-Mead took the puck over the line, she made a pass to sophomore Mae Olshansky, who tried a one-timer. The puck found its way to the other side of the crease, where Unsworth buried it to put Plattsburgh up 5-0.
The Cardinals scored one more before the end of the second. In neutral ice, junior defender Kendall Wasik played the puck off the board into the Bear’s Zone. Katonka took the puck to the net where she got another beautiful shot on the upper half of the net past Zurfluh. This was her 31st score of the season.
Plattsburgh put the finishing touches on the game in the third, adding another two more scores. At the 11:06 mark, Unsworth attempted a pass that bounced off a stick and into the air. After going off of multiple bodies, the puck landed and trickled to Zurfluh’s right, where Drew-Mead put it home for her eleventh goal of the year.
“It is officially playoff hockey, so we know we are going to get every team’s best effort,” Drew-Mead said. “With that being said, we came out strong against Potsdam, scoring the first goal and keeping the momentum going throughout the entire game.”
With less than two minutes remaining, Benjamin took the puck on the far-side and put it on net. After it went off of the opposing goalie, junior forward Tatem Cheney came around the net to send the rebound five-hole. This was her fifth of the year and was the final strike for Plattsburgh.
The Cardinals finished the game leading 51 to 25 shots. They killed off both of The Bear’s power plays and were one for two on their own. They moved to a perfect 34-0 against Potsdam since they began playing them in 2008, including four wins just this season.
“Not too much to say after a game like that. I think we’re just focused on the next game now.”Senior Ashley Davis said. “It’s important to take each game at a time.”
Plattsburgh will go on to play the third seeded Cortland Red Dragons in the NEWHL Finals Saturday, March 5 at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena. Cortland is 18-5-1 with a 12-5-1 conference record. They took down The Oswego State Lakers 1-0 in overtime behind junior Dany Donegan’s game winning goal to move on to this game. Historically, the Cards are 49-0-1 against the Red Dragons, including being 2-0-1 this season. The tie came back Feb. 4 in Cortland.
“Cortland is definitely not a team to take lightly” Davis said. “Going to have to keep focusing on the little things and clean up in some areas and we should be ready for Saturday.”