BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The top-ranked Plattsburgh State women’s hockey hasn’t surrendered a goal during its 2013-14 campaign.
In fact, the Cardinals (3-0, 1-0 ECAC West) haven’t been scored on in 240 minutes and 17 seconds, dating back to their NCAA Division III semifinal loss to Middlebury March 15.
Plattsburgh will put its scoreless streak on the line in its home opener against Castleton State College at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena for 3 p.m. today.
“We’re playing strong in our own end, for sure,” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “Obviously, we have an All-American goalie, too. The biggest thing is — we’re spending a lot of time in the other team’s end and not allowing a lot of quality goal-scoring opportunities. That’s a significant part of our success right now.”
After defeating national-ranked Norwich and Manhattanville, Plattsburgh drubbed Route 11 rival Potsdam on the road Tuesday, 8-0.
Goaltender Sydney Aveson, a West Covina, Calif., native, recorded her 20th-career shutout. Aveson is four shutouts from tying Carolyne Roy’s program record of 24.
The team’s blueliners have allowed just 43 shots on net.
“It’s definitely impressive,” Houle said. “For (Sydney Aveson) to keep two nationally-ranked opponents off the board is a feather in her cap, so to speak. She’d be the first to tell you it’s a team thing, though. She’s certainly made some quality saves.”
With three straight wins and Elmira College going 0-1-1 at the East/West Hockey Classic, Plattsburgh received a No. 1 ranking in the USCHO.com poll for the first time since March 4.
Shannon Stewart leads the team in scoring after a four-goal performance Tuesday.
Allison Era, a senior defenseman, has three goals and two assists, good for five points.
Bridget Balisy and Jenny Kistner have each scored on two occasions, combining for four assists as well.
The Cardinals are 14-for-14 on the penalty kill, but have only managed two power-play goals on 12 chances. Last year, the team converted on 30.7 percent of its one-player advantages.
“I’m a little concerned (with the power play), and I’d like to see us better than where we are at,” Houle said. “It was clicking against Potsdam and had some other good looks in other games as well. As long as we’re on the positive side of special teams, we’ll have a good chance at winning.
“We’ve done very well on the penalty kill, but we’re continuing to work with the power-play unit. After you graduate a 30-goal scorer like Teal Gove, it’s about finding the right combinations and right schemes.”
The Spartans (1-1), who compete in the ECAC East, have split two games against ECAC West opponents in non-conference play.
Castleton knocked off Cortland 1-0 at the Oswego State Classic last Saturday before falling to the host Lakers in overtime Sunday, 3-2.
Anna Daniels, BriAnna Narodowy and Lisa Kilroy have each scored for the Spartans, while junior Paula Stephens and sophomore Jess Cameron have split time between the pipes.
Stephens stopped all 21 shots faced and collected a shutout over Cortland. Cameron recorded 47 saves on 50 shots faced in 63 minutes against Oswego.
“No, it’s not difficult to prepare for a team that uses multiple goaltenders,” Houle said. “We have no familiarity with this team since we’ve never played them before. They’re a good team and well-coached. We expect them to come in, work hard and be very competitive.
“Anybody who thinks that it’s going to be an 8-0 game has another thing coming. They’re getting better every year, and they’re going to challenge teams in the ECAC East.”
This afternoon’s game will kick off a five-game home stand.
“It seems like a long time since we’ve been home,” Houle said. “We kind of talked about that (Friday). We’re excited, fired up and ready to play. Everybody is excited for this game. The home opener is always nice and special. Hopefully, there are no nerves and we come out fine.”