Thursday, July 25, 2024

Cards look to build after NCAA loss

Head Coach Kevin Houle and Assistant Coach Julia Duquette draw up a play for the team during a time out in the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena on Feb. 10.



By Michael Purtell

A rare quarterfinals loss soured what was otherwise a successful season for the Plattsburgh State Cardinals, which finished the inaugural SUNYAC women’s hockey season with the top seed and a conference record of 16-2-0.

The Cardinals’ season came to its conclusion after a 0-5 loss in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals to Middlebury at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena on March 9. 

Along with the conference best record, the Plattsburgh State’s women’s hockey program earned several postseason awards highlighting the team’s high level talent.

Plattsburgh State’s Head Coach Kevin Houle and his coaching staff received the SUNYAC’s Coaching Staff of the Year award for leading the Cardinals to the top of the conference. 

“It’s a credit to the players – they make us look good,” Assistant Coach Julia Duquette said. “It’s a great honor, but it ultimately goes back to the players and their dedication to the program and hard work throughout the year.”

Graduate student Julia Masotta was recognized as one of the strongest offensive players in the nation, as she was named a finalist for 2023-24 Laura Hurd Award. Masotta finished at the top of the SUNYAC in points with 37, and assists with 24. Her per-game marks in both statistics were fantastic, with her ppg of 1.32 good for 10th and her apg of .86 being ranked at sixth nationally. In addition to her Laura Hurd bid, she was honored with SUNYAC Player of the Year, her second All-Conference selection and an American Hockey Coaches Association All-American first team selection.

The awards were not taken for granted, but Masotta was most proud of being able to play hockey at a high level with the Cardinals through the end of her career.

“A lot of those recognitions are an attribute to my teammates, my linemates and definitely the coaching staff,” Masotta said. “I was able to come to Plattsburgh and, in a way, achieve my dreams by making it to the final four last year and making the NCAA tournament this year.”

Graduate student Kendall Wasik’s excellence represented the nation’s best on the defensive end with her All-American first team selection as a defenseman. She recorded a career high in most counting statistics, including a SUNYAC-leading +22 plus-minus. Twenty-two was also the number of assists Wasik recorded this season,and she was nationally ranked 10th in assists per game with .79.  Her two goals this year were both game-winners, rounding out her point total on the season to 24. Along with her All-American honors Wasik was selected for the SUNYAC All-Conference First Team.

“Especially after not being on a team last year, to go from that to the first team is a huge honor. I worked hard and I think my teammates and my coaches really pushed me to be able to reach it,” Wasik said.

Also showing out in her graduate year was Lilla Nease. In goal, Nease led the SUNYAC in win percentage with .771 and goals against average with 1.07. She was also second in the conference for save percentage with .947.

Graduate students Ivy Boric and Tatem Cheney round out the fifth year students leaving the team this year. Boric was awarded with an All-SUNYAC First Team selection, recording six goals and 14 assists. Her plus-minus rating of +17 was tied for seventh best in the conference.

The graduate students have played their last games in a Cards sweater, leaving large shoes for the team to fill heading into next season, not just on the ice, but as a leader in the locker room as well.

Masotta has specifically been cited by coaches and skaters as a strong leader for this team. Her leading style is modeled after the Cardinals who led her in previous years – specifically 2023 graduate Sara Krauseneck, Masotta said.

Luckily, the team had nine first-years on the roster itching to contribute to winning looking towards their sophomore year.

“Those girls came in and did exactly what we needed them to do. They made an impact right away and the future certainly is bright for them,” Duquette said.

Headlining the Cardinals’ young skaters is first-year Zsofia Pázmándi. Pázmándi was recognized as the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year for her dominant offensive showing throughout the season. Pázmándi’s ROTY campaign was easy to see coming, as she earned five Rookie of the Week awards throughout the season, including a three-peat over the span of Nov. 13 to Nov. 27.

Pázmándi led the conference in goals with 15 and was fourth in total plus/minus with a rating of +20. She had four games with two goals, and recorded a two-assist game against Buffalo State Jan. 20.

The Cardinals will need to stay sharp in the offseason to continue to compete at the high level the program has through the years. Many opposing programs have continued on their improvements from years passed, and the conference is the toughest it has ever been. This was punctuated by the end of the season, when Cortland was able to knock out the Cardinals for the program’s first NCAA  tournament bid.

“For us, we fell short. We have to be somewhat disappointed that we didn’t finish where we wanted to,” Duquette said. “We want to be in contention for a national championship every year. Our goals are lofty here, but that’s our expectation.”

For the Cardinals, the NCAA loss is a motivating force. For a team as successful as Plattsburgh State, motivation may prove dangerous to teams looking to get in the way.

“Next year will be a new team that’s building off of what everyone did this year and building off of the coaches and their success rate,” Wasik said. “Last time we didn’t make the final four was 11 years ago I think, and Houle was the coach. He knows how to bounce back and push the team to be very successful next season.”


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