Score: No. 3/3 Elmira College 5, Stevenson University 0
Records: Elmira (23-2-2), Stevenson (15-8-5)
Location: Murray Athletic Center -- Pine Valley, N.Y.
ELMIRA, N.Y. -- It was a historic day for the top-seeded Elmira College women's ice hockey team, as the Soaring Eagles were crowned the first-ever champions of the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) with a 5-0 victory over Stevenson University today at the Murray Athletic Center. The league championship is the eight for No. 3 nationally-ranked EC and the first since the 2009-10 campaign, when the Soaring Eagle won a title in the former ECAC West Conference.
With a pair of convincing performances over the weekend, Elmira dominated the All-Tournament Team selections, as six Soaring Eagles received recognition for their play. Highlighting this group of EC skaters was Sarah Hughson '18, who was tabbed as the Tournament MVP after netting six points (4g-2a) in the postseason. In addition to Hughson, Rachel Grampp'18, Kiana Melvin '20, Meghan Fonfara '18, Katie Granato '19 and Kelcey Crawford '18 represented the Purple and Gold on the All-Tournament Squad.
The Soaring Eagles came out on fire in the first period, putting 23 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. The Mustangs' starting goalie, Caitie Darosa, was up to the task, as she made 22 of her 45 saves in the opening frame.
Elmira finally broke through at the tail end of the period, as Stevenson sent two players to the penalty box in the final 1:07 of the first. It was on the 5-on-3 advantage that Fonfara buried a Granato pass by Darosa with just 10 ticks left on the clock. Devyn Gilman '21 also earned an assist on the play.
At the start of the second period, Hughson took control of the contest by scoring the first of three goals in the bout. Just 1:03 into the stanza, the East Haddam, Connecticut, native began her hat trick, her third as a senior, by stripping a Mustang player and scoring an unassisted tally.
Twelve minutes later, Hughson potted her second goal of the day on an extra-skater chance, as Crawford had left the ice on a delayed penalty. Hughson was streaking down the middle of the ice when Granato found her with a pass right in front of the visitor's crease. Louisa Lippiatt Durnell '18 recorded the secondary helper on the tally.
Hughson put a cherry on top of her fantastic contest with an empty-net goal in the third period. With Darosa off the ice for one last rally attempt, Hughson tickled the twine with a rocket from behind the blue line with 11 seconds left in the tilt.
A Shannon Strawinski '19 score at the end of the second period preceded Hughson's third tally. Durnell logged a game-high three assists with helpers on Elmira's last three goals. The product of East Sussex, England, increased her career total to 99 points, one shy of becoming the 12th member of Elmira's storied 100-point club.
Between the pipes for EC, Crawford was her normal self with 23 saves in the shutout victory. The fourth-year netminder's highlight came in the second period, when Stevenson's Maddy Ricci faced a wide-open net and Crawford made an outstanding diving save across the crease to just deflect the puck wide, which halted any momentum for the visitors.
In Their Own Words…
Head Coach Tim Crowley on Sunday's victory over Stevenson in the UCHC title game…
"I thought it was a really good game. I think, again, we started out strong and had a couple of chances to maybe put ourselves up a little bit more in the first period. I thought altogether, it was a really good weekend for us. We played with structure and were system-strong. And for us, the same thing as yesterday, I thought our better players were our best player today. In order to win these games, you need to have that."
Coach Crowley when asked about playing an inspired Stevenson team that upset No. 2 seed William Smith in overtime during Saturday's semifinals…
"We understood they have been playing some really good hockey as of late. I told the group that they hadn't lost since December 8 I think was the date. We knew that they were a hot team, especially any team playing with confidence can be a dangerous team. They put us on our heels a little bit just with their pressure, especially on their forecheck, and we were able to manage that a little bit. I thought, as the game progressed, we took over a little bit and were able to establish some possession."
Coach Crowley when asked about earning a bid in the 2018 NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship…
"We prepare every weekend like we're playing a ranked opponent no matter who we have coming in on the weekend. We've had some goals this year. We wanted to have a winning record against ranked opponents, and we had that. We wanted to win a regular season, and we checked that off. And now we won a championship. I certainly think we deserve having a home game this coming weekend and hopefully, the committee feels the same way, but for us, we are going to prepare the same way we had beforehand."
News and Notes
- Elmira captured the inaugural UCHC Championship, the eighth conference title in program history.
- EC's record improved to 23-2-2 overall with Sunday's win, while the team's unbeaten streak was extended to 14 in a row (12-0-2).
- Named to the UCHC All-Tournament Team from the Soaring Eagles were Granato, Fonfara, Melvin, Grampp, and Crawford.
- In addition, Hughson – the 2017-18 UCHC Player of the Year – was crowned the UCHC Tournament MVP.
- With 46 points, Hughson moved into ninth-place in EC single-season history.
- Hughson has scored a goal in six consecutive games and has logged at least one point in seven straight games.
- Hughson also moved into fifth place for goals in a season with 26.
- Granato moved into a three-way tie for second in the UCHC in points (40), trailing only Hughson.
- With three assists against the Mustangs, Durnell increased her career points total to 99, just one shy of becoming the 12th Soaring Eagle to join the coveted 100-Point Club.
- Durnell and Fonfara have posted at least one point in five straight contests.
- Crawford's shutout marked her eighth of the season, and the victory is her 20th.
- With 529 saves in her senior campaign, Crawford ranks third on EC's single-season leaderboard.
No. 3/3 Elmira will have to wait for Monday's selection show to determine their fate for the 2018 NCAA D-III Women's Ice Hockey Championship. The Soaring Eagles were ranked third in the East in the most recent edition of the NCAA Regional Rankings, which are used to determine which teams qualify for the postseason and their seeding. The selection show will air on Monday, March 5, at 10:00 a.m. on NCAA.com.