Amherst Heading to Gustavus Adolphus for NCAA Title Defense

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College women's ice hockey team will travel to Gustavus Adolphus College's Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter, Minn., for the 2010 NCAA Championship Finals. The Lord Jeffs will take on the host Gusties Friday, Mar. 19, at 8 p.m. (ET) in the second semifinal game, with the consolation and title games set for Saturday, Mar. 20.

Before Amherst and Gustavus take the ice, Norwich University will take on Elmira College at 4:30 p.m. (ET) in the first semifinal matchup. Saturday's consolation game will begin at 4:30 p.m. (ET), followed by the title game at 8 p.m. (ET).

Tickets will cost $12 for adults and $6 for students for a single session, and $20 for adults and $10 for students for an all-session pass. Tickets, which are all general admission, are available in advance or at the door the day of the game.

Each of the weekend's four games will feature a live video webcast and live statistics. Friday's game will be shown free of charge in Stirn Auditorium, as will Saturday's championship game should Amherst be playing in it. All are welcome to attend, but please note that space is limited.

As the defending NCAA champion, Amherst (21-2-4) is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the national tournament. The Lord Jeffs earned an automatic berth after winning their third NESCAC title in four years, and were awarded the tournament's top seed en route to a first-round bye. Amherst is attempting to become the fourth team to win back-to-back NCAA titles, a feat that Elmira (2002, 2003), Middlebury (2004, 2005, 2006) and Plattsburgh (2007, 2008) have already accomplished.

Amherst won the 2009 national title as the sixth-ranked team in Division III, but the Lord Jeffs have reclaimed their spot atop the National Poll. Despite playing the toughest schedule in program history, the Jeffs are in the midst of their fourth consecutive 20-win season thanks to a 7-1-3 record against teams currently ranked in the top 10. Since suffering a 3-2 loss to Colby College, Amherst has won nine consecutive games to mark the third longest active unbeaten streak in the nation.

The Lord Jeffs are scoring more goals per game and allowing fewer than they were at this time a year ago, as they rank sixth in Division III in scoring offense (3.93 gpg) and fourth in scoring defense (1.19 gpg). All-NESCAC selections Geneva Lloyd '13 (Calgary, Alberta), Randi Zukas '11 (Glen Head, NY) and Kirsten Dier '10 (Appleton, WI) each rank nationally in defenseman scoring, with Lloyd also ranking second in first-year scoring (1.08 ppg).

Junior Caroline Hu (Cerritos, CA) will carry a stellar 14-1-1 record to Minnesota as one of Division III's top goaltenders, ranking second in the nation in goals-against average (1.00) and seventh in save percentage (.938). Hu is 7-0 with three shutouts since Feb. 1, posting a 0.85 GAA while stopping 96 percent of shots faced during the dominant stretch.

Looking to advance to its first-ever NCAA title game is sixth-ranked Gustavus Adolphus (22-4-2), which is the first team from the West Region to host the Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship Finals since the NCAA began national tournament play in 2002. The Gusties earned an automatic berth by cruising to their sixth consecutive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title. In last weekend's NCAA Championship opening round, Gustavus defeated No. 4 Wisconsin-River Falls, 2-0.

The Gusties boast Division III's longest active unbeaten streak (13 games) and are 20-1-1 since getting off to a 2-3-1 start to the 2009-10 season. Gustavus is 4-8 in its seven NCAA Tournament appearances and has not won a national tournament game since 2005. Allie Schwab '12 (17-13-30) and Melissa Mackley '10 (12-17-29) are two of six Gustavus players with at least 20 points this season, while Danielle Justice '12 leads Division III in GAA (0.85) with seven shutouts and a .944 save percentage.

Looking to advance to the NCAA title game for the second consecutive year is second-ranked Elmira (23-4-1). The Soaring Eagles have failed to qualify for the national tournament only once (2007), and this year punched their ticket by winning a third consecutive ECAC West Championship. Elmira lost to Plattsburgh State twice during the regular season but picked up the more significant win of the season series by a score of 4-2. The Eagles have won 12 straight games, with each of the past three coming against nationally-ranked opponents. Elmira boasts Division III's best power play unit (29.5) and ranks fifth in scoring offense (4.07 gpg) and scoring defense (1.39 gpg).

In last weekend's NCAA quarterfinal game against Trinity College, Elmira trailed 1-0 after the opening period but managed to find the back of the net twice in the second frame, including the eventual game winner with only 46 seconds showing on the clock. The Soaring Eagles will look to their seniors to carry the offensive load, as Jenna McCall '10 (11-20-31), Jamie Kivi '10 (13-17-30) and Lauryn DePaul '10 (13-15-28) lead the team in scoring. Elmira features three first-year goaltenders, with Lauren Sullivan '13 highlighting the group at 14-2-1 with a 1.14 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.

Taking on Elmira will be the 10th-ranked Norwich Cadets (19-5-5). In only its third varsity season, Norwich has improved its record each year (12-10-2, 19-9-1, 19-5-5) to qualify for a second consecutive NCAA Tournament. After winning their first ECAC East title in 2009, the Cadets successfully defended their crown this year by outscoring opponents by a 16-1 margin during the conference tournament. Norwich stunned the rest of Division III by upsetting Plattsburgh in last weekend's national quarterfinals, with its 3-2 victory avenging the 7-2 loss it suffered to the Cardinals earlier this season.

Norwich's Julie Fortier '12 is the most efficient goal scorer remaining in the NCAA Tournament, as her 22 tallies rank her seventh in Division III in goals per game (0.76). Forming a dangerous one-two punch with Fortier is Sophie Leclerc '10 (14-21-35), who scored a pair of unassisted goals in the final two minutes of last weekend's game to lead the Cadets into the national semifinals for the first time in program history. Plattsburgh held a 2-1 lead with less than six minutes to play, but Leclerc struck gold at 18:23 and 19:18 to complete the comeback. Norwich is 0-3 all-time against Elmira, including a 3-2 loss in last year's NCAA opening round.

Amherst earned a 3-1 win over Norwich earlier this season in what was the first-ever meeting between the Lord Jeff and Cadet women's hockey programs. The Jeffs' only meeting with Gustavus Adolphus came last year, when the Gusties cruised to a 3-0 win on their home ice to hand Amherst its first loss of the season. This season, Amherst suffered a 2-1 loss to Elmira Jan. 4 on neutral ice before picking up a 3-1 victory over the Soaring Eagles on the road Jan. 20.

2010 NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship
Friday, Mar. 19 – Semifinals (@ Gustavus Adolphus)
#10 Norwich (19-5-5) vs. #2 Elmira (23-4-1) – 4:30 p.m. (ET)
#1 Amherst (21-2-4) vs. #6 Gustavus Adolphus (22-4-2) – 8 p.m. (ET)

Saturday, Mar. 20 (@ Gustavus Adolphus)
Consolation Game – 4:30 p.m. (ET)
Championship Game – 8 p.m. (ET)