College Sports

March 7, 2014

Cardinals host Utica in ECAC West semifinals

PLATTSBURGH — The No. 1 Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team outscored Utica 10-0 in a two-game sweep during the regular season.

But in playoff hockey, the past is irrelevant.

That’s the approach the Cardinals (23-1-1) will take when they face the Pioneers (17-8-1) in the first of two ECAC West semifinals at Stafford Ice Arena Saturday.

No. 2 Elmira College will also face Oswego with a trip to the conference championship on the line.

“When we approach an opponent for a second or third time, we certainly throw past results out the window,” Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle said. “In the 8-0 win, it could’ve been a different game. They had two or three golden opportunities early. If they capitalized, it’s a different game.

“In the 2-0 game, it was anybody’s game. They’re coming in with nothing to lose and everything to prove. We have to be on our game to beat them.”

Fourteen days separate the Cardinals’ last game, a 2-0 win over Oswego, and their upcoming conference semifinal Saturday. It marks the second-longest layoff of the season.

“Either way, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Houle said on Thursday. “We’ve worked real hard the last 11 or 12 days. We competed real hard in practice. Everybody’s healthy. It is what it is, so the layoff is no concern.”

Utica is 11-6-1 since returning from its semester break Jan 3. While the Pioneers average 3.23 goals per game, the team rallies around senior goaltender Jennifer Hamel.

In 64 career games, Hamel sports a 2.17 goals-against average to go along with a .920 save percentage.

“She’s a very capable goalie,” Houle said. “She’s played extremely well against us in the past. Beyond that, Utica is an excellent hockey team. They have as much talent, in my opinion, as anybody in the conference.

“We have to get a lot of shots on net and create second- and third-chance opportunities just to beat her. She’s a quality goalie. But we’re not looking at Utica like they just have a great goalie. We’re looking at the whole picture here. They’re an excellent club.”

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