AMHERST, MA – Amherst College used a four-goal second period to earn the program's first win over Plattsburgh State University, as the Lord Jeffs advanced to the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship Frozen Four with their 4-1 victory at Orr Rink.
Amherst entered Saturday's game with a 0-6 all-time record against Plattsburgh, the two-time defending national champion. The Jeffs and Cardinals had met once before in the NCAA Tournament, a 3-2 win for Plattsburgh in the 2007 national semifinals. When the teams met earlier this season, Plattsburgh earned a 3-1 victory on Amherst's home ice.
While the Cardinals end their impressive season at 22-5-2, Amherst improves to 22-5-0 and continues to build on what has been the best season in program history. The Jeffs had been eliminated from the 2008 NCAA Tournament with a 3-2 loss to Elmira in the opening round at Orr Rink.
Amherst will travel to take on a familiar opponent in Middlebury College, which received the tournament's lone first-round bye. The Jeffs earned victories of 3-0 and 5-0 over the Panthers during the regular season before the Panthers pulled off a 4-3 overtime win in the NESCAC Championship finals.
Plattsburgh had three power play opportunities in the opening period but could not capitalize. The Cardinals' best scoring chance came 13 minutes into the frame when sophomores Kate Fairfield (Toronto, Ontario) and Megan DiJulio (Slave Lake, Alberta) worked a 2-on-1 against Amherst junior defender Alyssa Chwick (Rye Brook, NY), but goaltender Krystyn Elek (Summerville, SC) made a nice kick save to keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
Junior Kate Dennett (Highlands Ranch, CO) gave the Jeffs their best opportunity when she intercepted a pass at the blue line and ripped a shot from the face-off circle. Senior goaltender Danielle Beattie (Brooklin, Ontario) made the stop and the puck bounced out in front of an open net, but no Amherst skater was there to follow up with a rebound.
The Cardinals ended the first period on the power play, but the Jeffs once again held their ground to keep the game scoreless heading into the first intermission. Plattsburgh held an 11-7 edge in shots on goal while looking like the more dominant team after 20 minutes of play.
Whatever head coach Jim Plumer told his Amherst team during the first intermission seemed to do the trick, as the Jeffs scored four goals in a span of 10:34, including one with only 9.6 seconds remaining in the second period. Sophomore Courtney Hanlon (Fullerton, CA) got the ball rolling when she received a pass from senior tri-captain Lindsey Harrington (Westford, MA) and put a shot on net. The puck was slowed down by a Plattsburgh defender, but it wasn't enough to keep the Jeffs from taking a 1-0 lead 9:16 into the period.
First-years Emily Vitale (Cheshire, CT) and Josie Fisher (White River Junction, VT) each kept their impressive rookie seasons going by scoring Amherst's second and third goals, respectively. Just 3:24 after junior tri-captain Kirsten Dier (Appleton, WI) and Dennett picked up assists on Vitale's goal 11:31 into the period, sophomore Megan Curry (Shorewood, MN) fed Fisher to give Amherst a 3-0 advantage.
Dennett capped off Amherst's stunning four-goal outburst when she received a pass from senior Tarasai Karega (Detroit, MI) and found the back of the net with less than 10 ticks left on the clock. Karega picked up a steal deep in the Cardinals' defensive end and found an open Dennett, who was left alone in front of the net with only Beattie to beat. Dennett was able to take her time and pick her spot, giving Amherst a comfortable 4-0 lead.
Elek made another 14 saves in the second period as the Jeffs out-shot the Cardinals by a 14-6 margin. Amherst had never scored more than two goals in a game against Plattsburgh prior to Saturday's meeting.
The first 10 minutes of the third period flew by with Amherst's NCAA Tournament picture coming into focus. The Cardinals got something going with just under six minutes remaining in regulation when they hit the post during a 5-on-3 power play. Just seconds later junior Stephanie Moberg (Saratoga Springs, NY) rocketed a shot to Elek's left, but the Amherst netminder made another nice kick save and the Jeffs killed the penalty to keep the shutout intact.
Plattsburgh finally managed to beat Elek on a power play goal after the Jeffs were whistled for tripping. Junior Laurie Bowler (Brantford, Ontario) delivered a pass to first-year Erika Shaubel (Belleville, Ontario), who sent a deep shot from just over the blue line high and to Elek's stick side. The puck made its way past Elek and cut the Cardinals' deficit to three goals, but with only 3:12 remaining in regulation.
Neither team would score again, sending Amherst to its second NCAA Frozen Four in the past three years. The Cardinals held a 32-24 edge in shots on goal, as Elek made 31 saves to improve to 14-3 on the year.
Game time for the national semifinals has yet to be determined. More information will be made available on Monday.