BY COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — SUPERIOR, Wisc. — Early in Friday’s third period, Plattsburgh State scored a goal, got a great chance at another and then quickly went on the power play.
The Cardinals hadn’t lost all season, and they seemed primed for a comeback. But Middlebury held them off the rest of the period.
Molly Downey scored with 2:35 left to give the Panthers a two-goal cushion and they added an empty-netter for a 4-1 victory in the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship semifinals at Wessman Arena.
“I certainly thought that Middlebury was capable of beating us. I know how they can play when they get it rolling,” Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle said. “And they certainly came out strong in the first period and had us back on our heels. But as the game wore on, I thought we got better and better and turned the tides.
“But we just came up a little bit short (Friday).”
The Cardinals (26-1-2) will play Gustavus Adolphus in this afternoon’s third-place game, and then Middlebury and Elmira will vie for the national championship.
Middlebury (20-7-2) was up 2-0 after two periods, and then Chelsea VanGlahn cut into the lead at 3:07 of the third when she skated in on the right side and put the puck past Annabelle Jones with an assist from Ali Vakos. VanGlahn nearly tied it shortly after, ringing a puck off the crossbar, and then the Cardinals got a power play.
They controlled possession at times in the period and outshot the Panthers 10-4.
But Downey all but sealed it when she poked the puck in during a scramble in front of the Plattsburgh net late in the period. The Cardinals pulled goaltender Sydney Aveson, and Middlebury just missed the open net with a little under two minutes left. Then Maggie Woodward connected with seven seconds on the clock.
Houle said the Cardinals’ mind-set heading into the final period was “just to believe.”
“We’ve done it all year long,” he added. “We wanted to get that first goal early. We talked about that, and we just talked about not leaving anything, certainly, on the ice.
“I thought we controlled play, obviously, throughout the third, but Midd did a great job of keeping us from getting those second and third opportunities. And the puck just wouldn’t drop for us.”
Jones turned away 27 shots for Middlebury, and Aveson made 19 saves.
Houle said Middlebury had the top-ranked Cardinals on their heels in the first period, and Lauren Greer gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead midway through when she fired in a loose puck for a power-play goal.
“After coming off of (an overtime quarterfinal win over) Norwich, I think we really had a lot of momentum and a lot of energy. And we knew that if we came out flat, the game was just going to go ahead of us,” Greer said. “So we came out with a lot of energy and knew that our opportunities were going to be really slim, so any opportunity that we got early on was going to be key.”
The Cardinals thought they got on the board early in the second when Teal Gove put the puck in the net, but the goal was waved off because of a high stick.Then the Panthers added to their lead with an unassisted goal by Emily Fluke at 3:40. Plattsburgh put pressure on as the period went on, keeping the puck in Middlebury’s zone for stretches.
In the second game, Elmira’s Tanis Lamoureux netted a short-handed goal to tie it at 3-3 with 2:51 left in regulation. Then with 37.2 seconds left in overtime, Cassidy Dalainey fed Sam Curk on a 2-on-1, and Curk buried the game-winner.
Like Gustavus Adolphus, the Cardinals lost in the national semifinals for the second straight season. Until Friday, they hadn’t dropped a game since that 2012 defeat.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world to end like this,” Gove said. “To be this close, to have such an amazing season, and then to lose this as your one game.”
Middlebury 4, Plattsburgh 1
Middlebury 1 1 2 — 4
Plattsburgh 0 0 1 — 1
First period- 1, Mid, Greer (Bielawski), 10:10 (pp). Penalties: Kistner, PSU (tripping), 9:25. Sullivan, Mid (hooking) 11:30. Kistner, PSU (cross-checking), 12:22. Stewart, PSU (checking), 17:00. Ziesman, PSU (roughing), 18:20. Fluke, Mid (diving), 18:20.
Second period- 2, Mid, Fluke, 3:40. Penalties: Era, PSU (hooking), 3:40. Balisy, PSU (interference), 7:41.
Third period- 3, PSU, VanGlahn (Vakos), 3:07. 4, Mid, Downey, 17:25. 5, Mid, Woodward, 19:43. Penalties: Wardwell, Mid (hooking), 5:17.
Shots on goal:
Middlebury 14 5 4 — 23
Plattsburgh 9 9 10 — 28
Goaltenders (shots-saves): Jones, Mid, 28-27. Aveson, PSU, 22-19.
Power plays (goals-opportunities): Middlebury 1-5, Plattsburgh 0-2.
Elmira 4, Gustavus Adolphus 3 (OT)
Elmira 1 1 1 1 — 4
Gus. Adolphus 0 2 1 1 — 3
First perod- 1, Elm, Hogan, 18:13. Penalties: Hjelm, GA (checking) 6:10. Johnston, Elm (checking), 12:03. Lamoureux, Elm (tripping), 15:31.
Second period- 2, GA, Christensen, 2:44. 3, GA, Hjelm (Kennedy, Doyle), 9:08. 4, Elm, Ryan, 14:01. Penalties: Stewart, Elm (hooking), 19:26.
Third period- 5, GA, Cartony (Hjelm), 11:40.6, Elm, Lamoureux (Ryan), 17:09 (sh). Penalties: Wilgosh, Elm (holding), 16:37.
Overtime- 7, Elm, Curk, 19:22.
Shots on goal:
Elmira 7 6 5 8 — 26
Gus. Adolphus 11 10 10 10 — 41
Goaltenders: Sullivan, Elm, 41-28. Hibbard, GA, 26-22.
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