PLATTSBURGH, NY – The Williams College women's hockey team (15-10-3) faced off against number one ranked Plattsburgh State (26-1-1) in the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
The Plattsburgh Cardinals were coming off a 4-3 win over Elmira last weekend, which secured them the ECAC Women's West title and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Today's game marked their third-straight trip to the tournament, and they entered the afternoon with an unblemished 9-0 record against Williams.
The Ephs were coming off their first NESCAC Championship on Sunday after defeating Bowdoin to earn their first automatic bid in program history. Today marks their second appearance in the NCAA tournament, having earned an at-large bid in 2003.
The home team would improve their record against Williams to 10-0 after today's quarterfinal, thanks an explosive offense led by Chelsea VanGlahn (Point Pleasant, NJ) and Ali Vakos (Hamden, CT), who notched each of Plattsburgh's goals. Vakos's four unanswered goals secured the home team a 4-1 victory and a spot in the NCAA semifinals.
The Ephs came out firing and took the first lead of the afternoon a little over a minute into play. Ashley Arnold (Boxborough, MA) and Chelsey Stevenson (Tilbury, Ontario) worked together to set up senior co-captain Gabby Vukasin (Princeton, NJ), who beat Plattsburgh goaltender Sydney Aveson (West Covine, CA). Shortly after, the Ephs saw a golden opportunity to go up 2-0, but barely missed on an open net scoring chance.
The Ephs nearly held onto their lead throughout the duration of the first period, but the Cardinals managed to knot things up at the 18:33 mark, thanks to Vakos' first of four goals. She was set up by the tandem of Giovanna Senese (Huntley, IL) and Andrea Ziesmann (Oakville, Ontario).
It would be an all-Cardinals game from then on out. Plattsburgh controlled the puck and kept it in the Williams zone for the remainder of the contest, posting 49 shots on goal to Williams' 25.
The Cardinals went up 2-1 within the opening minute of the second period and didn't look back. Vakos' second goal came 28 seconds in when she sent a rebound by Eph netminder Charlie Billadeau (Chaska, MN) off of a shot from Senese.
12 minutes later Vakos was in the right place at the right time once again. The hat trick goal came after VanGlahn collected a pass from Caitlin Gilligan (Burlington, Ontario) and ripped a shot that Billadeau stopped. Vakos picked up the rebound and punched it past Billadeau to take a commanding 3-1 lead.
Vakos rounded out the scoring for the Cardinals after just 31 seconds of play in the final stanza. VanGlahn and Ziesmann were in on the action again and were credited with assists. Plattsburgh held onto the 4-1 lead until the buzzer sounded, earning them a semifinal spot against St. Thomas next Friday.
Aveson concluded the game with an impressive 24 saves, while Billadeau turned away 45 Cardinal bids.
The loss ends the Ephs' exciting season, which included their first NESCAC Championship, and major awards for co-captain Cristina Bravi (Princeton, NJ), freshman Hanna Beattie (Whitehouse Station, NJ) and head coach Meghan Gillis. Bravi earned NESCAC Women's Ice Hockey Player of the Year, Beattie was named Rookie of the Year and Gillis was selected as Coach of the Year.
Williams looks forward to continuing to develop their program and using the momentum generated from the 2013-2014 campaign as fuel for next season. Gillis was very impressed with her team's performance throughout the year, stating, "I'm so proud of them for having such an exceptional season. They showed up everyday ready to get better and the two captains were a huge part of that; Bravi and Gabby did a great job of creating a positive team culture and their leadership resulted in us playing great hockey throughout."