The emotions on the ice ranged from sad, to angry, to confused. These Cardinals had never been here before.
The Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team lost the third-place game in the 2018 NCAA Division III National Championships Saturday, falling to the Hamline Pipers 5-4 in overtime.
This marks the first time since 2013 that the Cardinals did not win a national championship, as well as the first time they have lost two games in a single weekend since being swept by Elmira in a conference series in 2015.
“Obviously, Hamline came out with a lot of emotion and took the game to us pretty hard there in the first period,” head coach Kevin Houle said. “They put us on our heels and it was tough to fire back.”
The first period was one of the most disastrous of PSUC’s season as they were outshot 19-12 en route to Hamline taking a 3-1 lead.
The Cards’ only goal that period came when senior left wing Kayla Meneghin finished off a pass from junior center Mackenzie Millen.
Junior goalie Kassi Abbott stopped 16 of 19 shots to keep PSUC in the game during the first period, as Hamline had several odd-man rushes in the frame.
“I had about 12 shots probably in the first six minutes of the game, but I know the goalie that I am and that I can keep my team in the game,” Abbott said. “I knew that they would pick it up, so I had no worries.”
Houle reined in the focus of the team during the first intermission.
“Our message was, ‘Hey, I don’t care if we go out and lose the game, we just have to go out and compete and play hard,” Houle said. “You don’t want to go out and get beat six or seven to one on a national stage.”
The Cards tied the game 3-3 in the second with freshman center Annie Katonka and senior left wing Melissa Sheeran each netting their own goal.
Sheeran had a simple response when asked what was going through her head as she shot the puck.
“Please don’t hit the goalie in the chest,” Sheeran said. “At that point, I was just trying to get it on net, and thinking, ‘Please just go in.’”
Katonka also gave PSUC a brief lead 9:32 into the third period as she tallied her second on the game before Hamline’s Becca Zarembinski knotted the game up once again, this time 4-4 with 4:44 left.
The overtime period proved to be all Hamline, with the Pipers outshooting the Cards 7-1 before finally notching the winning goal with 6.2 seconds left on the clock.
Though it came under less than desirable circumstances for Abbott, her 47-save performance earned her a place in Cardinals’ women’s hockey history.
Abbott beat alumna Sydney Aveson’s 44-save performance for the new PSUC single-game save record.
“I guess that’s pretty cool,” Abbott said. “It’ll keep driving me to be a better goalie for my teammates, and just to be back there and make saves.”
Moving forward, the Cards will lose key pieces of their offence in Meneghin and Sheeran, as well as pieces of their back end with defenseman Lizzy Viola and goalie Brooke Wolejko also graduating.
Katonka was confident that despite these players’ importance to PSUC, the returning Cards will be able to step up in their absence.
“It’ll definitely be hard to fill in the positions of Kayla, Sheeran, Lizzy and Brooke but I feel like our team can do it,” Katonka said. “We have the talent and the mentality.”
So the season comes to a close; a close that will feel unfamiliar to most of the PSUC community.
There will be no parade. There will be no national championship trophy. But there will always be next year.