March 12, 2013

Cardinals head west in search of title

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State Cardinals will be winging their way west for the first time on Wednesday, heading to the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior will host this year’s Final Four. It’s only the second time in the 12-year history the women’s Division III championships have been contested out West. Gustavus Adolphus of Minnesota was the first Western school to host — in 2010.

The first semifinal game featuring Plattsburgh State and Middlebury is set for 5:30 p.m. EDT Friday. Gustavus Adolphus and Elmira will play in the second semifinal at 9 p.m. EDT.

Saturday’s schedule begins with the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. EDT followed by the championship game at 9 p.m. EDT.

Plattsburgh State will be making its seventh appearance in the Final Four. The Cardinals put together back-to-back NCAA championships in 2007 and ‘08 and were runners-up in 2006.

Kevin Houle’s team reached the Final Four in 2012, only to drop a 2-1 overtime decision to host and eventual champion RIT. That was the last loss for the Plattsburgh State women, who went on to beat Gustavus Adolphus 4-3 in the game for third place and then managed to put together a 26-0-2 string heading into this week.

Plattsburgh’s semifinal foe — Middlebury — is the most successful team in women’s D3 hockey with three NCAA titles. However, the Panthers have not won since 2006.

Elmira College won the first two NCAA tournaments in 2002-03, but has had to settle for a couple of second-place finishes since — in 2005 and ‘08.

Gustavus Adolphus is the only Final Four participant without a crown to its credit, but as the lone West school, should have some support this weekend. The Gusties have yet to reach the NCAA championship game.

Perhaps as a good omen for this year’s Cardinals, the only team to finish the season unbeaten was Plattsburgh’s 2007 champions, who wound up 27-0-2.

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