Women’s Hockey Qualifies for Postseason Play

Bill Stoklosa

Colgate women’s hockey team went into this past weekend not sure if it would be its last of the season. On Friday Colgate stood one point behind both Yale and Dartmouth for the final playoff spot in the ECAC. Luckily for the Raiders, they managed to beat Union 2-1 and RPI 3-2 at Starr Rink, which combined with a little help, was enough to send Colgate to the ECAC tournament for the eighth straight season. Colgate will begin a three game playoff series against Cornell on Friday.

The Raiders have historically dominated Union, going undefeated against them in 20 match-ups, and often without much trouble. Friday’s game against the Dutchwomen was a lopsided contest in the shot column, but not on the scoreboard. Colgate outshot Union 21-1 in the first period, but goalie Kate Gallagher kept Union in it. She stopped all the shots she faced in the first and sent the game to the first intermission tied at zero.

Colgate finally got on the board on a five-on-three power play in the second period. Senior forward Beth Rotenberg passed it from behind the Union net to senior defender Ali Edell, who was at the right point. Edell then found first-year defender Jordan Brickner at the right faceoff circle. Brickner ripped off a hard slap shot which beat Gallagher top shelf with 14:12 left in the period. Colgate got another five-on-three power play later in the period, and scored again with 8:15 left in the frame. Senior forward Evan Minnick got the puck on the left side of the net and made a nice pass to first-year forward Jenna Klynstra who was stationed on the right side of the net. She got off a hard shot that was saved, but junior forward Hannah Milan followed up and pushed in the rebound to give the Raiders two goals.

Colgate maintained that 2-0 lead into the third period, but Union made things interesting. Colgate helped keep Union in the game by taking five penalties in the period. Two of the penalties sent Union on a two man advantage, 6:34 into the period. Less than thirty seconds later Jackie Koetteritz lit the lamp to pull Union within one. Union had several chances to tie the game up late as they pulled Gallagher with 2:35 left, while they had a two-skater advantage. Union was up three skaters for 22 seconds, two skaters for a minute and 11 seconds after that, and had a one-skater advantage for the final 1:02 of the match. Colgate missed a couple of chances to seal the game with an empty net goal late in the match. Union, however, could not tie the score thanks to strong play from the Colgate defense and junior goalie Lisa Plenderleith.

Plenderleith had 16 saves on the evening, while Gallagher was much busier on the other end, racking up 43 saves in their defeat. Colgate got some good news from around the ECAC on Friday night as well, as Yale lost 1-0 to Quinnipiac. That moved Colgate ahead of Yale in the standings. However, Dartmouth pulled off a stunning 4-1 upset of Clarkson to stay a point ahead of the Raiders. So, the Raiders entered Saturday’s game against RPI knowing that only a win combined with a Dartmouth loss would get them into the playoffs.

Colgate lost 10-4 to RPI earlier this season, but the Raiders looked determined early on to have much different result on Saturday. Early in the first, Evan Minnick got a shot on goal on the power play, which was rebounded by senior forward Katie Stewart.

Stewart hammered home the rebound to give the Raiders an early 1-0 lead. Hannah Milan also had an assist on the play. RPI would knot things up before the period was out, however, as Taylor Horton scored after a scramble in front of the net.

Colgate would regain their advantage with a goal worthy of the highlight reel coming just 2:27 into the second period. Senior forward Marissa Dombovy passed the puck up to Katie Stewart, who got loose on a breakaway. Stewart skated in on goal, made a great deke, and then beat RPI goalie Sonja van der Bliek with a backhanded shot to the top shelf that put Colgate up 2-1.

Stewart’s goal would keep the Raiders in front until the third period. Less than five minutes into the third, the Engineers would tie things up, as Alisa Harrison scored on the power play for her second point of the afternoon. The Raiders, however, would soon regain the lead. With Colgate on the power play, Beth Rotenberg wrapped around the net and passed to Marissa Dombovy who ripped off a hard shot from the just inside the left faceoff circle. The shot snuck over van der Bliek’s shoulder to put Colgate up 3-2. Colgate’s defense and goaltending held RPI at bay for the remainder of the period and as the final buzzer sounded Colgate celebrated a place in the postseason, as their win combined with a Dartmouth 4-3 loss to St. Lawrence sent the Raiders to the playoffs.

“It was such a tremendous way to end up our regular season play,” Katie Stewart said. “We did not know we qualified for the playoffs until we were shaking hands at the end of the game and it was announced over the speakers.”

Stewart’s play was crucial for the Raiders’ success on Saturday as it has been all year. She scored a pair of goals in the game to bring her season total to 24, a Colgate record. Stewart also set a Colgate record with 39 points on the year. Stewart’s 24 made her the top goal scorer in the ECAC as well. Dombovy also had a huge game, recording the game-winning goal and making a nice assist to set up Stewart’s second goal. Plenderleith was also strong in net with 19 saves on the day. Once again, Colgate kept the opposing goalie much busier than their own, as van der Bliek made 32 saves in defeat.

Colgate will play a best of three series against top seeded Cornell in the ECAC playoffs. Colgate was 0-1-1 against the Big Red in the regular season. Cornell will host the entire series with game one beginning on 3:30 on Friday.

“We have to keep building from last weekend and start the game off strong,” Katie Stewart said. “We have to play very well defensively and jump on any offensive chances that arise. We are very excited that we are in the playoffs now and will carry that enthusiasm with us to Cornell.”