Jim McLaughlin, Sports Editor
Undefeated and nationally ranked No. 1, the Plattsburgh State women’s hockey team hadn’t lost a game since February 1, 2015. But that was before they faced off against the Utica College women’s ice hockey team, as the Pioneers pulled a massive upset Saturday night during the two teams’ weekend split.
The Pioneers had been playing well before they went up against Plattsburgh as they were on a seven-game winning streak. However, UC hadn’t beaten the Cardinals since 2008.
“They are a very good team,” head coach Dave Clausen said. “They have a good reputation that is intimidating to their opponents.”
Junior goaltender Keira Goin had mixed emotions before heading into the game, but had confidence in her team’s talent.
“I was equally scared and nervous,” she said. “As a team, we felt like we had nothing to lose playing Plattsburgh and we have been working up to face them all season.”
The Cardinals were able to get on the board first under two minutes into the game to take the lead. The Pioneers didn’t let the early goal get to them mentally. Instead, they continued to battle and found themselves going into the first intermission only down 1-0.
The Pioneers continued to battle as they were looking for their opportunity to even up the score in the start of the second period. Eventually, the opportunity presented itself on a power play and freshman Kayla Dion found the back of the net to tie the game 1-1. Senior Morgan Reed and junior Gabrielle Schnepp contributed to the goal with assists.
“Seeing the puck I had shot hit the back of the net was unreal and I could not have been more excited,” Dion said. “Scoring the first goal was such an adrenaline rush and a pump up for the whole team.”
Dion’s goal created a momentum shift in the game and was contagious. Three minutes later, freshman Lauren Patterson and Reed were coming down the ice on a two-on-one and after a deflected shot, Reed put the puck behind the goalie to take the lead.
The scoring didn’t stop there, as the Pioneers were able to score one more goal before the period ended. Schnepp put the puck between the pipes after a rebound came off the boards and gave UC a two-goal lead heading into the locker room.
The Cardinals came out in the third period ready to win the game or at least tie it up. Plattsburgh scored with under twelve minutes left in the game on a power play to get within one. Goin continued to stay confident and only focus on stopping the puck.
“I was not thinking about the score,” she said. “All of us were feeding off each other and the crowd. Even with the penalties we continued to have a confident mindset.”
There were under two minutes left in the game when the Cardinals pulled their goalie for an extra skater. The Pioneers continued to stay level-headed and found an opportunity to end the game. After a Goin save, Dion came with the puck across the blue-line to score with an empty net goal.
“I was feeling so many emotions all at once,” Dion said. “I was so pumped up for not only myself, but for my team as well. I could barley breathe.”
Dion’s goal made it a two-goal lead with 1:05 left on the clock and handed the Cardinals their first loss of the season.
“We played our system…work hard and match the intensity,” Clausen said. “There was no special plan. The team went out and played well. Keira had a great game, and everyone played well.”
Goin finished the game with 55 saves.
“It was the best win of my career easily,” she said. “I don’t think I ever played that well and have it pay off as much as it did for us.”
UC tried to pull the upset again on Sunday, but Plattsburgh had other plans.
It was 1-1 after the first period, but after intermission it was all Plattsburgh. The Cardinals scored five goals in the second period, and cruised to a 5-1 win.
The win over Plattsburgh moved the Pioneers up in the national rankings from No. 10 to No. 8. They host ECAC West opponent Buffalo State this weekend for a two game series. The first game is Saturday at 2 p.m.
“If we win this weekend people will realize that we are having a good season, and we are a good team and its not just luck on our side,” Goin said.
Featured Image; Kayla Dion (left) had three points over the weekend, and Keira Goin (right) had 55 saves in the Saturday night win over Plattsburgh. Photo taken by Jeff Pexton