BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With an opportunity to host an NCAA quarterfinal game inevitable, one could argue the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team isn’t playing for much of anything this weekend.
Kevin Houle, however, would beg to differ.
The number-one ranked Cardinals (23-0-2) play host to Neumann University today at 4 p.m. in the first leg of the ECAC West semifinals at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
“We’re playing for the ECAC (West) championship and that’s first and foremost,” Houle said. “We’ve been a resilient team all year and we’ve been focused on the game at hand. We’re not thinking about NCAAs, we’re thinking about Neumann University and our game with them (today) at 4 o’clock.”
The two teams met in Aston, Pa., Feb. 16 and 17 to close out the regular season. Plattsburgh was able to register a weekend sweep, winning 5-1 and 4-0.
The sixth-seeded Knights (10-15-1) are coming off a 3-0 upset win over Oswego in last week’s ECAC West quarterfinal round.
Keira St-Laurent, Edie Brenning and Megan Russelo all registered goals, while Shannon Donnelly made 33 saves in net to secure the shutout.
“I certainly think Neumann comes in here with some momentum, for sure,” Houle said. “I don’t think it was a big upset with them beating Oswego. A lot of people thought that could happen and it did. They’re coming in here loose and don’t have anything to lose, so to speak.
“They’re well-coached and have good goaltending. They have some players up front that could certainly hurt you. They’re a solid team with size. They’re coming in here to win a couple hockey games —don’t make any mistake about that.”
Today’s game will conclude a 13-day layoff for the Cardinals, who are led in scoring by senior captain Teal Gove (21-21-42). Shannon Stewart (20-17-37) and Jenny Kistner (10-19-29) also rank in the country’s top 16 in total point production.
“I think we’ve had a couple good weeks of practice,” Houle said. “We simulated some games and that type of thing along the way, and I think everybody’s excited to play. This just feels like a regular week getting ready for another game.”
Today’s second semifinal contest will feature Elmira College (20-4-1) and Utica College (16-8-2). The puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tickets prices per day are $5 for adults and $3 for college students with a valid ID. The Plattsburgh athletic department will be providing free tickets to the first 300 students each day who present a current Plattsburgh student ID.
All tickets will be available beginning at 2:30 p.m. today and 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Field House Box Office.