BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
---- — With one game remaining before the semester’s conclusion, there’s no doubt the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team would like to finish on a good note.
The first-ranked Cardinals (9-0-1) travel to Terry Conners Rink in Stamford, Conn., for a nonconference matchup against No. 8 Manhattanville tonight.
After suffering consecutive losses in their first two games, the Valiants (8-2-1) currently ride a seven-game unbeaten streak and have outscored their opponents 27-10 during that span. Plattsburgh beat Manhattanville 2-1 in overtime in the East/West Showcase on Oct. 27.
“We’ve grown since our first meeting with Manhattanville and have learned to focus on our systems,” Plattsburgh senior captain Teal Gove said. “We’ve played some strong teams since then and look to build off a great weekend in Buffalo.”
The Valiants are led offensively by Katie Little. The senior forward has totaled seven goals and four assists, good for 11 points through nine games. Mary Rose Morrison (4-7-11) and Alla Traun (2-5-7) are also expected to put up offensive output.
Manhattanville has been playing its home games in Stamford this season because its usual rink, the Playland Ice Casino, was damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
“They’re strong a team, and we expect a hard-fought effort,” Gove said. “We’d like to come out and match their intensity for the entire 60 minutes. We can’t take a shift off.”
The Cardinals have spent the last week of practice analyzing game film in an effort to adjust on special teams. Manhattanville’s power play features a forward camping predominately in the slot, a philosophy Plattsburgh wasn’t expecting in the first go-around.
“Our penalty kill is a continuous work in progress,” Plattsburgh forward Jenny Kistner said. “They operate a modified version of an umbrella. They overload one side of the ice and make a lot of passes at the blue line. We’ve been focusing on defending it.”
Despite surrendering just 10 goals in its first 10 outings, Gove said the team continuous to focus primarily on a blue-collar brand of hockey.
“Every week, we continue to work on zone play,” Gove said. We’re focused on making sure we limit turnovers in the defensive end. It’s a long season, but we’d like to get better every week.”
The squad is well aware of what’s at stake against a nonconference opponent. Last year, the Cardinals dropped consecutive games around Thanksgiving, including an overtime loss to Norwich a year ago to date.
“Out of conference games are just as important,” Kistner said. “We dug ourselves into a hole last year. We want to win this game just as bad as any other. The semester is coming to a close, so we’d like to finish strong.”
Plattsburgh has been on top of the USCHO.com Division III women’s poll since Nov. 19. While the honor has been recognized, the team is still striving for a common goal.
“It’s nice to be ranked No.1, but we’re not going to be satisfied until we win a national championship,” Kistner said. “Hopefully we can keep this thing rolling.”