PLATTSBURGH — The No. 1 Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team has had today and Saturday circled on its calendar since its 2013-14 schedule was released.
The Cardinals (17-0-1, 10-0-0) travel to No. 3 Elmira in a battle for ECAC West supremacy. The puck drops at 7 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Saturday.
Plattsburgh and the Soaring Eagles (15-3-1, 10-0-0) are deadlocked in a 20-point tie for first place in the conference standings.
“No, it doesn’t (get any bigger than this during the regular season),” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “Obviously, there is some hockey afterward, but home-ice advantage is at stake. In most years, it comes down to these two games. This is a huge weekend coming in.”
Elmira currently rides a seven-game winning streak, outscoring its opponents by a 27-8 margin during that span. The Soaring Eagles’ last defeat was Jan. 4, a 3-2 overtime setback to No. 2 Middlebury on the road.
Dean Jackson’s team owns some of the country’s most explosive forwards. Junior Ashley Ryan (12-21-33), senior captain Tanis Lamoureux (9-19-28) and junior Ashton Hogan (11-9-20) are dangerous in the offensive end.
“Their forwards are fast and have size,” Houle said. “They’re as good as anybody we’ve seen this year. Their defensemen are probably as good any corps in the country.”
Six of Elmira’s eight listed defensemen are juniors or seniors. With an experienced group in front of her, senior goaltender Lisa Marshall has been a force between the pipes.
Marshall sports an 11-2-1 record to go along with her 1.27 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
“Their defensemen are veterans much like us,” Houle said. “We’ll do what we try to do every game — get pucks through, crash the net and control the puck in the offensive zone.
“You’ve got to get some ugly goals in games like this. We have to be willing to get second and third chances.”
Plattsburgh enters the two-game slate with mind-boggling statistics, including a goal-scoring differential of 98 to 4. The Cardinals have made quick work of their opponents on the road, totaling 30 goals scored versus one against.
Despite four conference games remaining on the schedule against Chatham and Oswego, Plattsburgh’s two games versus the Soaring Eagles will likely decide the No. 1 seed in the ECAC West tournament next month.
“We have four tough conference games remaining (after Saturday),” Houle said. “The season is far from over, but whoever does well this weekend has the leg up for home-ice advantage.”
The last time the two teams met, Plattsburgh collected an elusive 4-2 victory in the ECAC West championship game at the Stafford Ice Arena March 3, 2013.
But the Soaring Eagles got the last laugh, claiming the national championship 13 days later in a weekend where the Cardinals entered the national semifinals at 26-0-2.
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