PLATTSBURGH — Last season, the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team had its national championship aspirations dashed in the NCAA Division III semifinals.
The Cardinals were forced to settle with a third-place finish, while watching their archival hoist the national championship trophy in Superior, Wis.
Losing all of one player from last year’s 27-1-2 squad, Plattsburgh has an opportunity to return to the final four and erase last year’s disappointment. But one game and one team stand in its way.
The top-ranked Cardinals (25-1-1) play host to No. 10 Williams College in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships today. The puck is scheduled to drop at the Stafford Ice Arena at 3 p.m.
“We’ve been taking it one game at a time every single game this year,” Plattsburgh junior forward Shannon Stewart said. “But last year is definitely in the back of our minds.”
The Ephs (15-9-3) were awarded an automatic bid into the tournament by virtue of winning the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). Williams defeated Bowdoin College, 4-1, in the conference final March 9.
The Ephs will be making their second-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships, having debuted in 2003.
“They’re going to come in with a lot of confidence,” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “They’re an excellent team, and they deserve to be here. We have to be ready to play.”
Williams’ Cristina Bravi was named the NESCAC Player of the Year and was a First-Team selection. A senior forward, Bravi leads the team in goals (20), assists (20) and points (40).
Hanna Beattie (14-18-32), Michaela Levine (10-10-20), Gabrielle Vukasin (8-9-17) and Andree Heller (8-9-17) are also offensive threats. Beattie was a First-Team defenseman and NESCAC Rookie of the Year.
“There’s no question they have talent at all positions,” Houle said. “They have balanced scoring, but they’re a different team than what we’ve played lately. They’re faster and more physical.”