November 16, 2013

PSU women's hockey searching for consistency

BY RICKY ST. CLAIR Press-Republican

---- — Last week, Plattsburgh State women’s hockey coach Kevin Houle told his players not to expect a rout in its inaugural meeting with Castleton State College. 

Houle was spot-on as the top-ranked Cardinals (4-0, 1-0 ECAC West) fended off the Spartans in a hard-fought 1-0 win.

It’s a new week, but the same story is being preached.

Plattsburgh will put its undefeated record and scoreless streak on the line when it hosts Buffalo State in a pair of ECAC West games at 3 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We stress having a sense of urgency all the time,” Houle said. “We only play 25 regular-season games, so there shouldn’t be any reason for our team to not get up for any one of them. We just want to have that same consistent effort we’ve seen through the first four games.”

The Bengals (0-3, 0-2 ECAC West) have got off to a rough start.

Buffalo State kicked off its 2013-14 campaign with back-to-back losses at home to Chatham University. Chatham is 4-55-1 in its last 60 games.

Then, the Bengals were clobbered by unranked Adrian College Sunday, 12-1. It was Buffalo State’s third game in as many days.

The team is led in scoring by Nikki Kirchberger. The sophomore defenseman has totaled two goals, including a power-play tally, and one assist.

Jackie Madison (1-1-2) and junior forwards Kara Goodwin (1-0-1) and Jeyna Minnick (1-0-1) have also scored.

The Bengals have been outscored 20-5 and outshot by a 152-47 margin.

“We like to look at film, but at this point, we don’t have any on them,” Houle said. “We’re familiar with them from last year. We just want to worry about playing our game and finishing on scoring opportunities, which is something we didn’t do last weekend.”

While Plattsburgh’s offense has averaged four goals per game, its defense has suffocated opponents. The Cardinals have not surrendered a goal in the last 300 minutes and 17 seconds of play.

In fact, Houle’s squad is allowing just 14.8 shots per game on the defensive end.

“There’s no chance the kids feel pressure about the streak what-so-ever,” Houle said. “It’s not on anybody’s mind. Sydney (Aveson) is so competitive every game, and she wants to get the shutout and keep teams off the board.”

Last season, Plattsburgh converted 35-of-114 power-play opportunities for a 30.7 success rate en route to a third-place finish at the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships.

Through four games, though, the Cardinals have managed just two power-play goals on 16 chances.

“We’re always pretty good in practice, but we’re not able to convert in games,” Houle said. “But we’ve worked with it. Hopefully, we get back on track this weekend before we have to totally revamp it.”

Houle possesses four players with two or more goals in the early going.

Shannon Stewart and Jenny Kistner have combined to score one-half of Plattsburgh’s goals, while Bridget Balisy and Ali Vakos have added two tallies.

Aveson, a senior goaltender, has recorded four shutouts in net and is three away from tying Carolyne Roy’s program record of 24 career shutouts.

After this weekend’s games, the Cardinals will host Neumann for two games.

Admission to all regular-season contests is free of charge.

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