BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The waiting is over.
Teal Gove’s game-winning goal with 8:47 remaining in regulation helped the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team capture its first ECAC West tournament championship since 2007 with a 4-2 win over Elmira College Sunday afternoon.
With the victory, the No. 1 Cardinals (25-0-2) secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships, during which they’ll likely host a quarterfinal game Saturday.
The field will be announced today at 10 a.m. during a live selection show on NCAA.com.
“It was six years in the making,” Gove said. “It’s been our goal all season, so to actually do it, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
After Soaring Eagles (21-5-1) forward Olivia Nystrom banged home a loose puck at 4:35 of the second period, Plattsburgh had to battle back from a 2-1 deficit.
Ali Vakos helped the Cardinals respond by redirecting a Caitlin Gilligan point shot into the back of the net with 10.9 seconds remaining, sending the game into a 2-all tie heading into the locker room.
“I think there’s no question it propelled us to the third period,” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “It took the wind out of their sails and certainly put some in ours. Obviously in that second period, Elmira was all over us. They had a lot of opportunities and time in our zone, so we were fortunate to come out with a 2-2 tie at that point.”
No. 4 Elmira finished the second period with a 12-4 advantage in shots on goal, but Gove said Vakos’ goal proved to be the turning point.
“Coming back and getting that tying goal was a momentum shifter, for sure,” Gove said. “Even though we didn’t play the greatest second period, it just changed the atmosphere and so much going into the locker room. We knew if we could play to our potential, we were going to come back and win the game.”
With the game still tied, Elmira went on its second power play of the game at 6:26 of the third.
But Plattsburgh’s penalty kill answered the call as the Soaring Eagles were unable to convert.
Chelsea VanGlahn scored her 12th goal of the year after poking a loose puck across the goal line at the 13:12 mark of the third period, extending the differential to two.
“Chelsea has been unbelievable for us this year,” Houle said. “She’s been a smart player. That Ali Vakos-Giovanna Senese-Chelsea VanGlahn line really gives us momentum.”
Elmira pulled goaltender Lauren Sullivan for the final 2:07 of regulation, but the Soaring Eagles couldn’t cut into the two-goal deficit.
The two teams finished the contest with 26 shots on goal, while each went 1-for-2 on the power play.
Sullivan accumulated 22 saves in net.
Gove, Vakos and Alyssa Parke were named to the All-Tournament team, combining for six goals and four assists on the weekend.
Goaltender Sydney Aveson was recognized as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, stopping 46 of 48 shots faced during the weekend sweep.
“It’s unbelievable,” Aveson said. “I think everyone could tell in the stands by the look on my face that I was definitely surprised.”
The victory marked Plattsburgh’s fifth come-from-behind win this season.
“This makes our season right now,” Houle said. “Obviously, we have work to do, but this completes the ECAC West regular-season championship and tournament championship. I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids.”
Looking ahead, Gove said anything less than a national championship would be a disappointment.
“Every year it is,” Gove said. “That’s why we came to Plattsburgh — the attraction coming here is the winning history and winning is expected. Regardless of your record going into playoffs, the goal is always that national championship.”
Plattsburgh State 4, Elmira College 2
Elmira 1 1 0 — 2
Plattsburgh 1 1 2 — 4
First period- 1, EC, Lamoureux (Weston), 2:36. 2, PSU, Kistner (Era, Balisy), 13:32 (pp). Penalties: Gellerman, EC (holding), 12:28. Curk, EC (interference), 16:05.
Second period- 3, EC, Nystrom (Curk), 4:35 (pp). 4, PSU, Vakos (Gilligan, Parke), 19:50. Penalties: Kistner, PSU (tripping), 2:37.
Third period- 5, PSU, Gove (Favretto), 11:13. 6, PSU, VanGlahn (Senese), 13:12. Penalties: Parke, PSU (interference), 6:26.
Shots on goal:
Elmira 6 12 8 — 26
Plattsburgh 14 4 8 — 26
Goaltenders (shots-saves): Sullivan, EC, 26-22. Aveson, PSU, 26-24.
Power plays (goals-opportunities): Elmira 1-2; Plattsburgh 1-2.