PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – UW-River Falls jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, but Elmira scored the final three goals of the night and a Cassidy Delainey tally with 9:38 to play proved the difference as the Soaring Eagles notched a 3-2 NCAA semifinal win at Stafford Arena.
The win advances Elmira (26-2-1) into Saturday's national championship game where it will face ECAC West league rival Plattsburgh State, who downed Norwich 5-2 in the day's other semifinal. The title game appearance will be the sixth all-time for the Soaring Eagles and their first since claiming the 2013 national championship. River Falls (25-4-1) will meet Norwich in the third place game.
River Falls opened the scoring at the 6:37 mark of the first as Dani Sibley won a draw inside the Elmira zone to teammate Sam Greeley who immediately fired it past Elmira netminder Kyle Nelson to make it 1-0 Falcons. The lead doubled at 14:06 as Carly Moran found her all alone in front with a pass from behind the goal and Sibley buried a one-timer to make it 2-0.
The free-flowing game that graced the first period gave way to a penalty-filled second, but despite each team having numerous chances with the extra skater neither was able to find the back of the net and it looked like the second period would close with River Falls would carry its 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
However, that all changed with less than a second to goal in the period as Elmira's Ashton Hogan struck on the power play to put the Soaring Eagles on the board and cut their deficit to 2-1.
The goal proved to spur a huge swing in momentum as Elmira carried a narrow 21-18 shot advantage through two periods, but challenged River Falls netminder Angie Hall early and often in the third. The pressure finally paid off at the 7:00 mark as Erin Weston banged home the rebound of a Brooke Wilgosh shot from the point to tie the game, 2-2.
At 10:22, Elmira's Cassidly Delainey beat Hall with a close range shot to put the Soaring Eagles up 3-2. It was their first lead of the night and the only lead they needed as Nelson stopped all five shots she faced in the period to preserve the lead and score the win.
Elmira ultimately outshot River Falls 16-5 in the third period and 37-23 on the night. The win marked the second-straight week the Soaring Eagles have scored a come-from-behind 3-2 win. While the wins have been tight, the margin matters little as Elmira will face Plattsburgh for perhaps the biggest rubber match in school history as the two have played four times this season and each claimed two wins.
Saturday's championship game between Elmira and Plattsburgh is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EDT and will be the first NCAA tournament meeting between the two since the Cardinals topped the 2-0 in a 2008 quarterfinal. The preceding third place contest between Norwich and River Falls will drop the puck at 3:30 p.m. EDT.