Saturday, July 13, 2024

Cardinals overcome injury adversity to beat Middlebury, move on to semifinals

The Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team has advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals for the sixth season in a row.

The No.1/2 Cardinals beat the No.4/4 Middlebury Panthers 3-1 Saturday while overcoming plenty of adversity.

PSUC was already without senior right wing Kayla Meneghin and sophomore right wing Meghan Kraus who were fulfilling NCAA-mandated suspensions stemming from misbehavior at last year’s National Championships.

Then, late in the first period, the Cards lost their top goal scorer, junior left wing Courtney Moriarty, to injury.

This left PSUC with 10 forwards dressed while missing two of its top three scorers, a tough challenge to overcome for any team.

“I told the team after the game that no question, no doubt, that was the gutsiest win in my years here at Plattsburgh,” head coach Kevin Houle said. “To find a way to win that game, it took everybody.”

The Cards got contributions from all over the team.

Sophomore forward Sarah Wolf slotted into Meneghin’s usual spot on a line with Moriarty and junior center Mackenzie Millen to start the game. Freshman right wing Kaitlin Drew-Mead stepped up to fill Moriarty’s spot once the latter went down to injury.

The score was opened 14:34 into the second period by freshman defenseman Erin McArdle, who picked up her own rebound in the right faceoff circle before sneaking it through a crowd in front of the Middlebury net and past Panther goalie Lin Han.

The game remained tight, with Middlebury tying it with 2:15 left in the second.

The decisive goal came just under seven minutes into the third as senior defenseman Lizzy Viola gloved a floating puck in the left faceoff circle, put it onto her stick and got a shot on goal before junior center Ashley Songin guided the rebound home.  

“I was just trying to get the puck on net, and hopefully the forward would do their job,” Viola said.  “Ashley [Songin] was there and did the job, and I couldn’t have been more happy to be out there.”

PSUC’s special teams played to mixed results, with the power play going 0 for 4, and the penalty kill allowing one goal on five opportunities.

Middlebury pulled their goalie with 2:12 left in the third period but to no avail.

The Panthers would pour on pressure in the dying minutes of the game, but the Cardinal defense and junior goalie Kassi Abbott steered all chances aside before Millen scored the empty-net goal with 12 seconds left to put PSUC up by two.

“She’s [Abbott] been great all year,” Houle said. “Her and Brooke [Wolejko] have been awesome, and it was no different tonight. She stood tall.”

Next up, the Cards will play in the NCAA Division III semifinals against the Elmira College Soaring Eagles Friday at Norwich University’s Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield, Vermont.

“Anytime you get to the final four, you have an opportunity to win a national championship,” Houle said. “Momentum is momentum, but when we drop the puck next week it’s anybody’s game. So we’ll just have to get ready this week for Elmira.”

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