BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — For the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team, the stage is set.
The first-ranked Cardinals play host to St. Norbert at 4 p.m. today in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals at the Stafford Ice Arena.
Plattsburgh is making its second straight NCAA tournament appearance and ninth overall. The Cardinals are 11-7 all-time in the tournament and will be meeting the Green Knights (18-9-2) for the first time in program history.
The Cardinals finished the regular season with an unscathed 25-0-2 overall record while securing the top seed in the ECAC West tournament and serving as host for the championship.
Plattsburgh earned a 5-0 win over Neumann in the semifinals before a come-from-behind defeat of Elmira, 4-2, in the final to claim its third ECAC West title.
Coach Kevin Houle doesn’t think there is any added pressure because his team is unbeaten.
“I think it’s something that we haven’t talked about throughout the course of the season,” Houle said. “Like I said before, we’re taking everything one game at a time. We’re looking at this game as our next challenge. As long as we worry about the task at hand, we’re not worried about any outside pressures.”
Teal Gove leads all offensive categories with 25 goals, 21 assists, nine power-play goals and five game-winners. Sophomore Shannon Stewart is second in points with 37, while junior Jenny Kistner is third with 31.
Sydney Aveson anchors the Plattsburgh defense with a 1.12 goals-against average, which ranks second in Division III. Aveson also ranks eighth with a .939 save percentage.
“Our goal, just like they are any game, is to do a good job in our own end and make sure we don’t have extended shifts,” Houle said. “We hope to generate a lot of offense and limit their opportunities. For us, we want to limit our giveaways and make them earn every opportunity that they get.”
St. Norbert enters today’s game winning 13 of its last 14 games, including nine straight. Trailing 2-0 in the NCHA championship game versus Wisconsin-River Falls, the Green Knights rallied for a 3-2 overtime win to earn the program’s first berth into the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Anybody that can do that is certainly a team to contend with,” Houle said. “They’re on a great roll right now. We certainly look at them as a dangerous team and obviously a team that should be here.”
Henriette Ostergaard tops St. Norbert’s scoring leaders with 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points. Karissa Anderson, who scored the overtime game-winner against Wisconsin-River Falls, has 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points. Zoe Kurth and Andrea Senne total 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Kaley Gibson is the team’s primary goaltender and sports a 17-8-2 record along with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.
“It’s been a real good week of practice,” Houle said. “It was a short week, but I was very pleased with the intensity and the way we progressed during the week. We had a chance to look over some video, and I think we’re ready to play.”
Adult general admission is $6 and $3 for college students with a valid ID. The first 300 Plattsburgh students who present a current ID will be admitted free. Ticket sales will begin at 2:30 p.m. at the Field House Box Office.
TWITTER For updates on today's NCAA Div. III women's hockey tournament game between Plattsburgh State and St. Norbert, follow @sportsCourt on Twitter.