HAMDEN, Conn.- It doesn’t matter what seed they were. Mercyhurst is a tough team to beat. The Lakers are in their 10th NCAA tournament in the last 10 years and know pressure situations. Tonight, however, it was a tournament newcomer that spoiled Cinderella’s ball as the #3 seeded Clarkson Golden Knights defeated the Lakers 5-1 to advance to their first ever National Championship Game at the High Point Solutions Arena on the campus of Quinnipiac University.
“We had an amazing run to get here,” Mercyhurst head coach Michael Sisti said. “I’m so proud of our players.
“They were the better team,” Sisti said of Clarkson.
“[This is] the biggest win in program history,” Clarkson co-head coach Matt Desrosiers said. “I think the girls did a great job of sticking with it tonight.”
It was actually the Lakers who scored first, as Jaclyn Arbour put home her own rebound to make it 1-0 8:02 into the opening frame. Her fifth goal came on an assist from Shelby Bram.
That’s about all the positive that came on the Lakers side, as Clarkson turned up the heat in the second, with some unlikely scorers getting into the act.
With only 15 skaters, the Knights would be the team to get tired quicker, but with each passing minute, they looked sharper and sharper with their efforts paying off 5:00 flat into the second stanza. Renata Fast ripped a shot from the right point to score her second goal of the year past Amanda Makela to tie the score at 1. Vanessa Gagnon assisted on the play.
Gagnon got her scoring on at 9:16 as she did her best Gordie Howe impression. Jamie Lee Rattray, last week’s hero, tried to stuff the puck home from the left side, but it went past the goalie into no-man’s land in the right crease where Gagnon dove to push the puck into the back of the net and score the eventual game winner at 2-1.
“I saw it at the last second so I dove for it,” Gagnon said.
Fast appeared to get another goal at 16:24, as she got a great feed from Shelby Nisbet down low to the same spot on the right point. This time the puck was tipped by Christine Lambert who was credited with her eighth tally of the year to make it 3-1.
“My main goal is to get puck on net, Fast said. ” Whether it gets tipped or just goes in, I had big screens [up front], so it’s a big help.”
6:39 into the third, Brittany Styner scored to make it a three goal lead. She got an amazing feed from Rattray in the left circle and let go a shot from the right circle past Makela to make it 4-1 on her 14th of the campaign.
Clarkson was able to get an empty net goal, as Makela was pulled with 2:24 left in a desperation attempt. Shannon MacAulay was credited with her 12th as she had an easy goal to end the game with 14 seconds left at 5-1.
Defensively, Erica Howe was solid, stopping all but 1 of the 19 shots she faced over the game.
The Golden Knights will face a much more difficult opponent in two time defending champion Minnesota on Sunday at 3pm as they look to be the first non WCHA team to win a women’s hockey title, and look for the first National Championship in school history in any sport.
“They’re going to get a ‘helluva’ good game,” Gagnon quipped.
- Both teams have had experience on Hamden’s ice. Clarkson is now 6-0-1 at the High Point Solutions Arena as they are ECAC rivals with the Bobcats. Mercyhurst now falls to 2-1-1 in games played at the Hamden rink.
- Quinnipiac head coach Rick Seeley was the first coach for the Golden Knights. He attended Friday’s game. Clarkson coach Matt Destosiers said that like any other ECAC coach, Seeley wished him luck but had no special message for the team he helped build 11 years ago.
- Friday marked Clarkson’s first 30 win season in program history.
- Mercyhurst had snuck into the postseason, beating out host Quinnipiac by tenths of a percentage point in the PairWise. They beat Cornell for the second straight year but again fell in the Frozen Four round. This marked the 10th consecutive year the program had received an at large bid, as the CHA does not get an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
RAW Clarkson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WItyiRgeNGU
RAW Mercyhurst: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhlK6kJlIVI