---- — BY RICKY ST. CLAIR
PLATTSBURGH — With a fierce fight for ECAC West supremacy just 72 hours away, the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team could have a trap game on its hands.
The Cardinals (13-0-1, 7-0 ECAC West), who have been ranked No. 1 in the United States College Hockey Online (USCHO) poll since Nov. 19, host Williams College tonight in their second-to-last non-conference tilt before a highly-anticipated matchup with No. 3 Elmira College Saturday and Sunday at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
“I think every game you play is a potential trap game when you’re ranked one, two, or three and you’re playing a team that isn’t ranked; it’s a game that can sneak up on you,” Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle said. “It’s our job as coaches to make sure the team’s prepared and concerned about one game only, and that’s our approach.”
Plattsburgh is coming off a pair of home victories over Oswego State to remain unbeaten at 13-0-1. The last time Houle’s team was unbeaten this late in the year — 2006-2007, the program’s first leg of back-to-back national championships.
The Cardinals own one of the country’s most productive forward lines with Teal Gove centering Morgan MacInnis and Shannon Stewart. The trio have accumulated 26 goals and 32 assists on the year, and recently concluded a 17-point weekend.
“I think that line has…going back to the Manhattanville weekend before the break, really started to click,” Houle said. “They hadn’t really got off to a great start in terms of scoring to start the year. The last several weekends, they’ve really picked up the pace and carried the team in the sense of scoring.
“I think that’s the thing with our team this year — we’ve had different lines and different players carry the scoring front from game-to-game. They’ve certainly been the hot line for us as of late.”
Totaling two shutouts in consecutive days is 2011-2012 AHCA First Team All-American Sydney Aveson. The five-foot-six-inch West Covina, Calif., native sports a .937 save percentage to go along with an eye-popping 1.17 goals against average in 11 starts between the pipes.
The Ephs (6-6, 3-3 NESCAC) play in the New England Small College Athletic Conference and sit at .500 on the season. Williams rides a three-game losing skid, dropping contests to New England College and a pair of consecutive conference setbacks to Hamilton.
The squad is led in scoring by Gabrielle Vukasin (7-3-10), Cristina Bravi (3-5-8) and Andree Heller (5-1-6), while sophomore net minder Chloe Billadeau has a .917 save percentage and a 2.11 goals against average.
“I think Williams will certainly be excited to play and kind of have that ‘everything to gain, nothing to lose’ attitude,” Houle said. “They’re a hard-working team and a very capable team that can play with anybody. They have two big wins over Trinity. We’re certainly expecting their best shot.”
The puck is slated to drop for 7 p.m.