By Peter Langella
Special to D3hockey.com
NORTHFIELD, Vt. – In the first-ever game between the two schools in any sport, Senior forward Darby Dodds scored in the final seconds of overtime, and the Hamline University Pipers beat the Plattsburgh State Cardinals 5-4 to earn 3rd Place bragging rights in NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey at host Norwich University's Kreitzberg Arena.
"Really exciting game went back and forth," Hamline coach and former USA Olympian Natalie Darwitz said. "It just showed our resilience. We've been used to adversity all year. Storybook ending with our senior captain getting the overtime winner. Only two teams go home today winners, and we're glad we're one of the two."
Hamline dominated a wide-open first period, outshooting the Cardinals, 19-12, and took a 3-1 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes. The Pipers got on the board first when sophomore forward Sadie Baker converted a rebound chance five minutes into the game. First year forward Madison Gaffney and first year defender Olivia Arkel assisted on the play.
"Hamline came out with a lot of emotion and took the game to us in the first period," Plattsburgh Coach Kevin Houle said. "We got back on our heels. Our goal was to make it a game and play for pride. The Minnesota teams can all skate, they can all compete, they have a strong squad, and we tip our hats to them today."
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Pipers extended their lead to 2-0 at 9:47 of the first on a beautiful face-off play. Junior forward Leah Schwartzman won the draw cleanly back to linemate and classmate Becca Zarembinski, who took two steps from right to left along the top of the face-off circle before snapping the puck over the outstretched glove of Plattsburgh junior goaltender Kassi Abbott.
The six-time National Champion Cardinals cut the lead to 2-1 :20 seconds later when senior forward Kayla Meneghin converted junior forward Mackenzie Millen's cross-crease pass.
The potential for a momentum swing was short-lived, however, as the Pipers regained their two-goal advantage at 15:08 on a rebound goal by sophomore forward Bre Simon, her team-leading 31st on the season. Sophomore defender Zoey Lobejko took the shot from the point to create the chance. Dodds also assisted on the play.
The score could have been more lopsided if not for several great stops from the Cardinal's Abbott, including kick saves on both a breakaway and a two-on-none chance.
The second period flowed back and forth with each team creating chances until Plattsburgh broke through at 14:10 when first year forward Annie Katonka accepted a backdoor feed from Millen for the goal. Junior forward Ashley Songin was credited with the second assist after a nice pass off the half-wall.
Plattsburgh tied it up at 3-3 with :20 seconds left in the middle frame on an amazing individual effort from National Player of the Year Melissa Sheeran. The Cardinals won a defensive zone face-off back to junior defender Maci Hoskins, who moved it up to first year forward Abby Bush. Bush then hit Sheeran reaching full stride in the neutral zone, and Sheeran faked wide then pulled the puck through a Piper defender's legs before finishing with a five-hole tally.
Hamline continued to outshoot Plattsburgh, 16-10 in the second, and 35-22 overall after two.
Plattsburgh claimed their first lead of the game at 9:42 of the third period on Katonka's second goal of the game. The Pittsburg, Pa. native won the puck in her defensive and moved it to Sheeran for a two-on-two rush. Sheeran maneuvered through a defender and pushed the disc toward the net where Katonka was able to slam home the loose puck for the go-ahead marker.
The Pipers clawed back to tie the game when Zarembinski scored her second of the game at 4:44 of the third. Schwartzman and first year forward Madison Kolbow notched the assists for Hamline. Zarembinski collected the puck just outside the Plattsburgh zone before flowing inside and out and launching a blocker-side strike into the back of the net.
NCAA rules state that a tie after regulation in the 3rd Place game leads to a five-minute overtime and, if necessary, a shootout.
It wasn't necessary.
Hamline's Dodds chipped a rebound over Abbott's glove to give the Pipers the win with just :06 seconds left in overtime. Sophomore defender Dani Perry pounded a shot on net that led to the winning score. Dodds was mobbed by her teammates in a flurry of flying gloves and sticks.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world," Dodds said.
Hamline first year goalie McKenna Hulsander made several key saves when she needed to, including a brilliant toe-save on Meneghin during a penalty kill at the beginning of the third period, and she finished with 30 stops.
The Pipers outshot Plattsburgh 52-34 for the contest. With 47 saves, Abbott set the record for most stops in a single game by a Cardinal goalie, besting 2014 National Player of the Year Sydney Aveson's previous record of 44.
"I guess that's pretty cool," Abbott said. "It's going to keep driving me to be a better goalie and make saves. I'm excited for next year. This was a learning experience this weekend. We'll go into next year knowing how it feels."
Plattsburgh found themselves in the consolation game after four straight national titles. They lost to Elmira 3-2 in double overtime in yesterday's semi-final. This weekend also marks the first time the Cardinals lost two games in a row since losing back-to-back at Elmira over three years ago.
"We were a little bit tired and probably a little bit surprised by the speed of Hamline," Houle said.
Hamline was competing in its first NCAA tournament, which makes the 3rd Pace finish the best in program history. They beat the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in last weekend's quarterfinal before losing to host Norwich 5-1 yesterday.
"Really historic season for Hamline hockey to put us on the map," Darwitz said. "There's not much that has to be said. I think this game had a lot more meaning than a 3rd place game for us. There was a lot to prove."