Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cardinals lose first Finals in decade

Emily Kasprzak looks at the Cortland team as it celebrates after the overtime win at Ronald B Stafford Ice Arena Saturday, March 2. The win marked the first time Cortland would be qualifying for the NCAA tournament.


By Michael Purtell

Plattsburgh’s conference title run is over.

For the first time in 10 years, the #1 seed Cardinals are ending the season without a conference trophy after losing to the #2 seed Cortland Red Dragons 1-2 on the first shot of overtime Saturday, March 2. Cortland secured its first-ever spot in the 11 team NCAA tournament by handing the Cardinals its first loss at home all season.

“I hope to god we see them next week,” graduate student Julia Masotta said after the game as Cortland’s players screamed in celebration on their way to the locker room. “This is their Stanley Cup here, so hats off to them.”

Cortland has steadily improved as a hockey program over recent years. Since recording three wins in the 2016-17 season, it has won more games in nearly every season since, peaking with back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2022-23 and 2023-24. 

“They’ve been getting better,” Plattsburgh Head Coach Kevin Houle said. “They’ve been knocking on the door for a while and for them to win this championship, it’s certainly a big deal for their program and they’ve earned it.”

The defense for both teams headlined the game. Both teams came into the Finals averaging 36 shots a night. Plattsburgh was held to 27 shots. Cortland shot just 21 times.

Neither team gained an edge over the other’s full-strength defense in regulation. The playoff atmosphere fueled skaters who jostled for positioning and tossed each other to the ice or against the glass regularly. Despite brief attempts to appeal to the referees, there were only three penalties and all of them came in the second period.

The first came at the five-minute mark of the second period when first-year defenseman Adrianna Urban was called for tripping. With the game still scoreless, Cortland had its first good chance to score.

The Cardinals, who killed 10 of its last 12 penalties, smothered the Red Dragons, denying it a single shot on goal through the two-minute penalty.


By Collin Bolebruch

Emily Kasprzak (22) controls the puck in the Cortland zone through a defender with Riley Calhoun (10) trailing. Kasprzak had two shots in the Finals game.


In goal, Plattsburgh’s Lilla Nease and Cortland’s Molly Gorgen traded impressive saves throughout the game. Nease caught several fast shots with ease. Gorgen was diving on the ice, and made athletic saves all night, including a shot she juggled out of the air with her stick. Neither was willing to give the opposition an inch of the net.

The pair hold the top spots in the SUNYAC for goals against average, save percentage and win percentage, and are second and third in total saves this season.

Between the strong play and the brick walls in goal, no offense came easy. The first period was scoreless.

Halfway through the second period, the Cardinals got its chance when Red Dragon Meggan Cramer was sent to the box for tripping. Senior forward Mae Olshansky won the face off after the call, and the Cardinals passed the puck around the zone before Masotta found senior forward Ciara Wall behind the goal line. Wall sent a picture-perfect pass across the crease to find Olshansky inches from the right side of the net in perfect position for the goal.

Olshansky has provided huge value for the Cardinals in power plays. The goal marked her second power play goal against Cortland this season. 

Two minutes later, with just eight minutes left in the period, the Red Dragons pushed the puck into the Cardinals’ zone. A slapshot was put on Nease, who fended the shot out of the goal with her stick. Junior defenseman Mattie Norton, trying to throw off the shooter, got tied up in contact, and they both hit the ground sliding into the wall. Norton was penalized with two minutes for high sticking.

Cortland had another shot with the extra skater, and the Cards needed to kill another penalty to keep the lead.

Cortland provided a more potent offense on its second power play. Cortland shot early in the penalty’s timer from the blue line, and Nease sent the puck into the sky, colliding with the net above the rink.

Winning the face off, the Red Dragons put pressure on goal again immediately. It scored in the same manner as the Cardinals. A Red Dragon behind the net made a pass to a teammate in the crease who slapped the puck into the back of the net.

1-1, tie game.

“It’s hard to kill them all,” Masotta said.


By Collin Bolebruch

Mae Olshansky and Ivy Boric on the ice after the loss awaiting the awards ceremony. Olshansky scored the Cardinals’ lone goal in the game.


Plattsburgh held the Red Dragons to just two shots in the third period, while taking eight shots of its own, but neither team got through the conference’s top tenders.

Overtime lasted two minutes, and came to its peak when Nease snagged the puck from a Red Dragon trying to move around the net. The following faceoff in the Cardinals’ zone was bounced out from between the two player’s sticks, and was collected by Red Dragon Elena Eichmann who turned and fired the puck through the five hole for the first shot on goal in extra time.

The Cortland bench erupted onto the ice in celebration.

The Red Dragons coalesced into a celebratory swarm against the glass as the Cardinals skated slowly to its blue line for all tournament awards.

Cardinals Masotta and graduate student defenseman Kendall Wasik were named to the All-Tournament team. Sophomore defenseman Aizah Thompson was honored with the SUNYAC Elite 20 award for outstanding academic and athletic performances.

“We’re going to be fine. We have great leadership, we have a great coaching staff, we have great goaltending,” Masotta said. “We’re gonna bounce back. This is motivation for us and I’m confident in our team.” 

The Cardinals’ received an at-large bid and will be competing in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Plattsburgh will be facing No. 7 Middlebury at home Saturday, March 9.

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