By Ray Biggs
D3hockey.com Managing Editor
Mendota Heights, MN - During the first two rounds of this NCAA tournament, the Plattsburgh State Cardinals got off to much slower starts than they would have liked. Kevin Houle’s charges required an 0-2 comeback and overtime to take out Endicott in the Opening Round. In the quarterfinals, the Cards were challenged again as Williams scored the first goal, and the teams were neck-and-neck well into the third period before Plattsburgh pulled away.
With a trip to the NCAA title game on the line on Friday, the Cardinals were not about to leave as much to chance. Plattsburgh jumped out to the early lead for the first time in this tournament on a goal by Courtney Moriarty, and the senior forward doubled the lead with a second goal. Adrian showed a glimmer of
|Plattsburgh's Courtney Moriarty raises her stick in the air after scoring her second goal in the Cardinals' NCAA semifinal win over Adrian.
Photo: Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
promise with a third period goal to make it 2-1, but the Cardinals pulled away with two third period goals as they advanced by a 4-1 score in an NCAA Division III semifinal game on Friday in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.
Plattsburgh awaits the winner of St. Thomas and Hamline tomorrow in the national championship game at 7 p.m. Central as they pursue their seventh NCAA Division III national championship, and their fifth in the last six seasons. The Cards are now 28-2-0. Adrian is eliminated from NCAA title contention but will play in the third place game at 3 p.m. Central on Saturday. Adrian is now 23-5-2. The Bulldogs had the second longest win streak in the nation snapped at eleven games, while the Cardinals will tote the longest one of all going into the championship at 17 consecutive games.
Moriarty led the way with her two goals, while Annie Katonka continued her remarkable campaign with a goal and two assists to move up to 53 points on the season. Kassi Abbott stopped fourteen of fifteen Adrian shots and set a new Plattsburgh single season record during the game for minutes played with 1,968 for the season.
Freshman Jessica VonRuden continued her remarkable postseason with her ninth goal, and third NCAA postseason goal for the Bulldogs, but goaltender Denisa Jandova had her toughest outing to date in the semifinal loss as she was handed her first career loss after a 24-of-28 showing in the Adrian net.
Plattsburgh wasted no time putting their opposition to task in the opening period as they notched six of the game’s first seven shots and had an 8-2 advantage in the count for the period. Penalties provided a window of opportunity on special teams for both sides, as both teams recorded a penalty apiece, but it was what happened just moments after Plattsburgh’s first power play expired that defined the score in the opening frame. Moriarty notched her second goal of the NCAA tournament at 10:24 of the first period as a point shot was swept to the front of the net. Annie Katonka and Nicole Unsworth both got a touch on the puck to set the play in motion, and eventually the puck pinballed to Moriarty, who landed it behind Jandova for the 1-0 lead.
The Cardinals dictated puck possession and limited the Bulldogs to one solid opportunity in a nearly flawless period by the Easterners as the early advantage held up all the way to the buzzer.
The Cardinals continued their prowess in the second period, and it was Moriarty and Katonka teaming up again on the goal for Plattsburgh as the senior hammered in her nineteenth goal of the season, and what would go on to become her 23rd career game-winning goal.
|Plattsburgh wins the draw during Friday's semifinal action against Adrian in Mendota Heights
Photo: Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com
A largely quiet beginning for Abbott began to get busier late in the second period as Adrian displayed a renewed sense of urgency towards the latter half of the middle stanza. No save stood taller for the Plattsburgh netminder on the night than the one she made with Maggie Mitter and Jacqueline White bearing down on her with numbers, as she read a beautifully played puck across the slot between the veteran forwards and went post-to-post to deny the opportunity and maintain the two goal advantage going into the third.
Just as she was the hero in Adrian’s win over Elmira, Von Ruden certainly provided Adrian with a spark when they needed one in the third period. The Bulldogs continued their run of intense play from late into the second period into the third, with Von Ruden making an excellent effort for the Adrian goal. The rookie entered down the left wing side and lost the puck on edge as she began to turn towards the net, the puck slid behind defender Hannah Kiraly, and Von Ruden stepped around the All-American and got back to the puck before pulling it from post to post and chipping it past Abbott.
The outcome was back in doubt at that moment. Plattsburgh ultimately got the game back under their own control. Madison Walker’s seventh goal of the season added some insurance for the Cardinals, and Annie Katonka added a second goal late in the matchup as Plattsburgh delivered a big win against one of the two teams to beat them in the regular season. The teams split the regular season series at a game apiece.
The teams finished the night a combined 0-for-10 on the power play despite plentiful special teams chances. The Cardinals outshot Adrian for the night by a 28-15 count in the matchup.
The win not only got Plattsburgh closer to the pinnacle they seek, but it was also a measure of redemption for the Cardinals. Plattsburgh was eliminated in the semifinal round by Elmira last year in a loss that denied them a fifth straight national title, and they later lost in the third place game. The team to beat them for third place, Hamline, may await as the team’s opponent as the Pipers meet top-seeded St. Thomas at 7 p.m. Central on Friday in Mendota Heights. As of this writing at 8:04 PM Eastern, Hamline leads the Tommies 2-0.