The Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team’s championship streak had to end at some point, and it will end at four straight titles.
The Cardinals fell to the Elmira Soaring Eagles 3-2 in double overtime at Norwich University’s Kreitzberg Arena Friday in their NCAA Division III Championship semifinal matchup.
“These are games we’ve been able to finish off in the past but we just couldn’t quite do it tonight,” head coach Kevin Houle said.
Houle’s prerogative for his team all season has been to start strong and score early, and PSUC didn’t disappoint in that regard.
Forty seconds into the opening frame, senior right wing Kayla Meneghin deposited a rebound at the right side of Elmira’s net after junior left wing Courtney Moriarty backhanded it on to open the scoring.
The Cards’ other goal came from senior defenseman Lizzy Viola who grabbed a rebound from freshman center Annie Katonka’s blocked shot 14:12 into the second period and fired it home from the left hash marks.
All three of Elmira’s goals were scored by forward Shannon Strawinski, with her hat-trick goal coming 16:10 into the second overtime.
Both of her regulation goals came after defensive lapses by PSUC, with Strawinski left uncovered in the slot on her first goal, and with the Cards missing several chances to clear the zone on her second.
Senior goalie Brooke Wolejko fell one save short of the Cardinal women’s hockey program single-game record, stopping 43 of Elmira’s 46 shots.
“Going into the game I just wanted to remember why I started playing in the first place,” Wolejko said. “I just wanted to have fun, let loose and soak it all in. Unfortunately, we didn’t want the outcome we got.”
The loss ends a championship run but not the season.
The Cards still have one last game to play, as they will face the Hamline Pipers in a consolation game Saturday.
Senior captain Melissa Sheeran was well aware of this and was not planning on reminiscing just yet.
“When it ends, I guess,” Sheeran said regarding when she would reflect on her career with PSUC. “I’m not trying to look back and cry on something that’s not over yet. Maybe tomorrow after I hang up the skates I’ll look back on it, but until then we have a game to play.”
Sheeran commented on what she hopes the younger members of the team take out of this loss.
“Remember how this feels, because you never want this feeling and you never want it to happen again,” Sheeran said.
Viola doubled down on Sheeran’s statement and added her own perspective.
“[The freshmen] seeing all the girls in the room and their reactions after the loss, I think it’s going to stick with them,” Viola said.
For a team that has won four straight NCAA Divison III national titles, this feeling is new territory for many players. Houle hoped that the team could take lessons from this game, but also put the focus on tomorrow’s contest as one last ride for the group.
“It’s one last chance to be together as a team, one last chance to put on the skates as a team,” Houle said. “It’s an opportunity to go out and play one more time, but it’s certainly not the game we wanted to be playing in.”