February 27, 2011

Women’s Hockey Advances to Semi-finals After Sweep Against RPI

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The weekend was a little more dramatic than expected for the women’s hockey team, but the Red swept the Rensselaer Engineers (10-18-7, 8-12-2 ECAC Hockey) in a best of three series to advance to the ECAC playoff semi-finals on Thursday. The Red (28-2-1, 20-1-1) came back for a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory on Friday night, before cruising to a 6-1 victory on Saturday afternoon to send the Engineers packing.

Perhaps it was first-playoff game jitters, but the heavily favored Red was unable to capitalize on most of its scoring opportunities on Friday night. Junior forward Catherine White put the Red on the board halfway through the first period to take an early lead, 1-0, but the Engineers came back strong, answering with a goal late in the period along with another score in the second — putting the Red in a 2-1 deficit heading into the third period.

The Red came back to dominate the third, but Engineer goaltender Sonja van der Bliek — who had 34 saves on the night — turned away everything that came her way. Finally junior forward Rebecca Johnston appeared to tie the game for the Red with just over a minute to play, but the goal was disallowed after a video replay. The Red did not let up, relentlessly firing shot after shot at van der Bliek before Johnston scored again — this time for good with under seven seconds left to play, forcing the game into overtime.

“When they disallowed the goal, we knew that we had to get it back,”  Johnston said after tallying four goals and an assist in the series. “That last minute was probably the most intense of the game; we had so many chances, but we [finally converted].”

The Red carried the momentum from the end of the period into overtime, needing just 1:28 to put the game away. Senior forward Karlee Overguard scored with help from Johnston and freshman forward Brianne Jenner to complete the dramatic victory and put the Red up 1-0 in the series.

Despite the frustration of not being able to score for most of the third period and having the tying goal disallowed with just over a minute to play, the Red never lost faith — knowing that if it kept the pressure on, a goal would come.

“[After the goal was disallowed] we knew that we needed to score, regardless of whether or not that goal counted,” said junior forward Chelsea Karpenko, who had two goals and an assist on the weekend. “We were just trying to make the most of the time that we had left, hoping we would get the bounce that we needed. [Heading into overtime] we were pretty pumped, but it was a matter of not getting too high; we were excited about tying it up but we knew that we needed to move on. We wanted to use our momentum and take it one shift at a time.”

Saturday afternoon the Red maintained its momentum from the previous night, jumping out to a 1-0 lead just 2:13 into play, when Johnston beat van der Bliek for the first of her three goals on the day. Karpenko made it 2-0 early in the second period, before RPI’s Alisa Harrison cut the Red’s lead in half, 2-1. The Red would not be shaken — responding with four unanswered goals to put the game and the series out of reach. Johnston recorded two more goals, Karpenko added one more and White notched her second goal of the weekend to give the Red the victory, 6-1.  Freshman goaltender Lauren Slebodnick stopped 19 of the 22 shots she faced in the series for her first ever playoff victories.

After the Red’s difficult win on Friday night, the squad was more confident as it had a better grasp of what exactly it had to do to come out and win a tough playoff game.

“I’m sure there were a little bit of jitters [in game one],” Karpenko said. “Friday was a battle and we got through it. I think we carried the momentum we got into Saturday; even when they got that goal to cut it to 2-1, we were confident in the way we were playing that we would come out on top.”

“Playoff games are a lot different from regular season games,” Johnston added. “Everything’s on the line in the playoffs; maybe in a way we weren’t quite ready for that. On Saturday’s game we knew what we had to do.”

Original Author: Ware Cady