BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Unbeaten.
An adjective, not to be confused with a “winning streak,” that often defines a team’s number of consecutive games played without a loss.
For the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team, it’s just one of some 220,000 words in the Oxford English dictionary.
The No. 1-ranked Cardinals (18-0-1, 11-0 ECAC West) put it all on the line tonight at 7 p.m. when fifth-ranked Middlebury College travels across Lake Champlain and invades the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena for their final non-conference game of the 2012-2013 regular season.
“We never talk about it; it’s never been mentioned,” Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle said. “It just so happens we’re 18-0-1, but it’s not important. Our goal is to play well, get better and have a more consistent effort.”
The last time these two perennial powers met was a 3-2 Plattsburgh win during the second day of the annual Cardinal-Panther Classic Nov. 25 at Chip Kenyon Arena.
Following a Panthers (12-2-2, 9-1-2 NESCAC) comeback to tie the game at 2-all, Emma Rutherford collected the game-winning goal with 8:10 remaining in regulation.
“Anytime you gain a lead, it’s important to hang on to it,” Houle said. “Like the first Middlebury game and second Elmira (College) game…no lead is safe. When you’re playing against good hockey teams with a lot of pride, they’re going to push for a comeback.”
Offensively, Middlebury is led by a trio of sophomore forwards. Hannah Bielawski
(6-13-19), Emily Fluke (10-5-15) and Katie Sullivan (6-9-15) combined for 40 percent of its team’s goals, while attributing five game-winning tallies.
Coach Bill Mandigo has elected to split time in net between goaltenders Annabelle Jones and Laura Pinsent.
Jones, a 5-foot-9-inch sophomore from Homer, N.Y., sports a 4-4-2 record to go a long with a 1.84 goals against average and a .912 save percentage, while Pinsent boats a perfect 6-0-0 mark with a 1.62 goals against average and .922 save percentage.
Plattsburgh owns the country’s most potent scoring offense, generating just over five goals per contest and is coming off a weekend sweep against Cortland State where its power play went 5-for-9.
“Our power play has been good all year, but hasn’t been the most dynamic,” Houle said. “Fortunately, we’ve been finding ways to put the puck in the net. Whenever you’re on the positive side of special teams, you have a good opportunity to beat elite teams.”
In their last 10 outings, the Cardinals hold a 4-2-4 record versus the Panthers.
“As a player, it’s one of those big games you enjoy playing in,” Houle said. “It has been a great rivalry over the years, and we have a great deal of respect for their program. I just hope we can come out and play loose.”