PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh State goaltender Sydney Aveson is on a tear this season.
A finalist for the Laura Hurd Award, given annually to the best NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey player in the country, Aveson has more shutouts (13) than goals against (12) in 22 games played.
A senior from West Covina, Calif., Aveson has helped the Cardinals to a 26-1-1 overall record and a spot in the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championships semifinals.
The secret to her success is her mental approach, she said.
“This year’s all been about my mental game,” Aveson said. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was 4 years old, and I’ve got (that) end of my game down. But this year’s been all mental. I just have my head on straight. I meditate before the games, and that’s how I’ve been very successful.”
Aveson sports a 0.54 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage. Even those numbers surprise her a little bit.
“Sometimes, I’ll look at them and say, ‘Oh, that’s a little bit ridiculous,’” Aveson said. “I think it just lights a fire under my butt to keep it going just because it’s so rare.”
Aveson has been a winner with the program since transferring from Division I Minnesota State-Mankato her freshman year. The expeditionary studies major is 67-8-5 in a Plattsburgh uniform.
“She’s been very good the last two years,” Cardinals coach Kevin Houle said. “This year, she’s been exceptionally good. I think Syd was maybe called upon last year to maybe stop more pucks than she has this year.
“But this year, she’s been big when we’ve given up breakaways, when we’ve given up shots in front of the net. She’s been there. To have the type of season numbers-wise she’s had is incredible. I just think she has certainly played better every year that she’s played here, and she’s been a two-time All-American, so that’s pretty special.”
After a disappointing third-place finish in Superior, Wis., a year ago, Plattsburgh is looking for a better outcome when it hosts the final four Friday and Saturday. The Cardinals will challenge St. Thomas (Minn.) at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Despite last year’s result, Aveson doesn’t feel more pressure.
“I don’t think there’s added pressure, but I definitely feel a difference in terms of my team’s practices leading up to this weekend,” Aveson said. “I feel that I’m not counting down how many practices I have left. We’re more anxious to play. We’re ready to play.
“We’ve been ready since the beginning of the week, whereas I felt last year and the previous year, I was like, ‘OK, I have two more practices. Oh no, I only have one more practice.’ I felt like I was going into those games with a little bit of a negative mind-set. This year, I’m just ready to go. I want to play now.”
Aveson belongs to a group of six seniors that have accumulated a 93-13-9 record, which includes three consecutive appearances in the final four. Aveson, Jenny Kistner, Allison Era, Chelsea VanGlahn, Jordan Caldwell and Ali Vakos are hoping to conclude their collegiate careers with championship hardware.
“We want to go out with a bang. Bottom line.” Aveson said. “To get it done in our own barn, you can’t ask for anything more.”
Plattsburgh will be hosting the final four for the fourth time since the tournament’s inception in 2002. The Cardinals were the runner-up at home in 2006 before collecting back-to-back national championships in 2007 and 2008.
“There’s so much to gain from having home-ice advantage,” Aveson said. “Our parents are here, and we have our own training facilities. We’ve got bikes that we can train on that we’re used to. Yeah, we’re really excited to have it here.”
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Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship Tickets are scheduled to go on sale at 2 p.m. each day at the Plattsburgh State Field House box office and are separate for each day of the tournament. Prices are $15 each day for adults and $10 dollars for college students with identification.