Compiled by D3hockey.com Staff
On a day where familiar names won in NCAA quarterfinal play, that trend has carried over into a familiar looking semifinal matchup next weekend in Northfield, Vermont. It came easy for neither squad, but former ECAC West rivals Plattsburgh and Elmira each punched their tickets to the 2018 Frozen Four with wins over top ten opponents on home ice on Saturday afternoon.
The semifinal matchup, penciled in for 3:30 PM Saturday, will be the third meeting between the two with the season series knotted at one. The Soaring Eagles won 4-2 in the Championship game of the UNO Classic, and the Cardinals later responded with a win in the title game of the East-West classic. Their season series record was a wash, and that's where the similarities begin with an eye ahead to next week's matchup. Both teams needed patient, persistent efforts to move past their tough opposition this afternoon. Elmira took well into the third period before breaking a scoreless tie in a 2-0 win over Adrian, and Plattsburgh broke a 1-1 tie in the third period and had no relief in sight until an empty net goal sealed their 3-1 win over Middlebury.
As if in some sort of bizzare real life version of the film "Stuck on You", the Soaring Eagles and Bulldogs have been joined at the hip in the NCAA quarterfinals recently. For a third consecutive year, Elmira and Adrian met with three wins remaining to the national championship, and the opportunity for a playoff rematch means the opportunity for the assertion of dominance, or the chance for payback. Elmira made sure the latter applied after last season's quarterfinal letdown stopped them short of a semifinal berth, but did so under the tightest of circumstances.
With the pair inseperable for the last three postseasons, it's almost fitting that neither team shook the other for well over 50 minutes. Goaltenders Kate Turner and Kelcey Crawford put on an electrifying display at their relatively autonomous positions, as Turner made 31 saves and Crawford posted 26 of their own. In the end, the much younger Turner was the one who blinked first. UCHC Player of the Year and Tournament MVP Sarah Hughson shattered a scoreless tie with 6:22 left, and an empty net goal added some additional padding as the Soaring Eagles advanced with a 2-0 blanking of the Bulldogs.
Turner and Crawford were the stars, but were aided early on by an intense, but tight checking stalemate through the opening period with just ten combined shots. The floodgates opened into a much more free-flowing game in the second period, with both clubs posting 10 shots or more in the middle frame, but the netminders stood tall to force a 0-0 score leading to the decisive third period.
The Hughson goal was assisted by top flight playmaking forward Shannon Strawinski, who continued to do what she's done all year long. She placed a perfect backhand pass across to the senior for the ultimately critical tally. Louisa Lippiatt Durnell recorded her 100th career point with the secondary assist. Maddie Evangelous potted the empty netter with fifteen seconds left to put it on ice. Neither team converted a power play opportunity for the afternoon as the clubs went a combined 0-for-7. With her shutout performance, Crawford tied a program record with her 21st win of the year.
"It was an unbelievable game, much like our NCAA game against them last year," Elmira coach Tim Crowley said in the school's release. "It was, I thought, back and forth and as a spectator, it must have been a tremendous game to watch. Credit to Adrian, they had a really great season. We were just fortunate enough to come out on top today. We had incredible goaltending from Kelcey (Crawford) and when we needed to make a play in the third period we did. We're excited about next weekend."
Plattsburgh and Middlebury also have a measure of familiarity with one another. The two North Country rivals have met frequently over the years including a 2-1 game earlier this season. When all was said and done, the Cardinals found a way to prevail yet again in another nail biter that wasn't decided until the third period. Ashley Songin broke a 1-1 tie with her fifth goal of the season at 6:58 of the third period, and an empty net goal late added further assurance of the Cardinals' drive for five straight national titles continuing in a 3-1 Plattsburgh win at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
Plattsburgh controlled play by a significant margin at the outset of the matchup, creating a significant level of pressure on Middlebury starter Lin Han to the tune of an 18-5 shot advantage, but neither Han, nor Plattsburgh's Kassi Abbott made any miscues in a 0-0 score after one. The second period got significantly spicier, as play began to level out and the scoring held serve as well to create another stalemate through 40 minutes, this one of the 1-1 variety. Erin McArdle's fifth goal of the season got the scoring off and running for the Cardinals, as she drilled in her own rebound following a Cardinal power play. The Panthers got their rebuttal in 3:11 later when Maddie Winslow redirected a shot past Abbott.
That left the game tied, and both teams in need of heroics in the third to advance. Songin became that player for the Cardinals in a gutsy effort. With just over 13 minutes left, she threaded the go-ahead goal through the five hole to provide some sense of security to Plattsburgh before the empty netter by Mackenzie Millen put the game firmly away. Abbott turned aside 26 of 27 shots to earn the win for the Cardinals, who improved to 24-2-2. Plattsburgh played the game without forwards Kayla Meneghin and Meghan Kraus, who were unable to participate due to NCAA discipline levied after the 2017 postseason.
"I told the team after the game that no question, no doubt, that was the guttiest win in my years here at Plattsburgh," Cardinal Head Coach Kevin Houle said in the school's release. "To find a way to win that game, it took everybody."
Middlebury closes their year at 20-5-3.