Jim McLaughlin, Sports Editor
The Utica College women’s hockey team earned a trip to the ECAC West conference tournament semifinals against the second seeded and nationally ranked No. 2 Elmira College Soaring Eagles.
The third seeded and nationally ranked No. 9 Pioneers faced off against the Soaring Eagles earlier in the season and lost both games. UC came close to winning the second game, but fell short with two minutes to play in regulation. Despite the losing record, both teams have changed dramatically since November.Women
“We are a different team than when we played them earlier in the season,” head coach Dave Clausen said. “Both of the teams are very much similar. We both like to play a fast paced up-tempo game. However, we are more of a bigger team, while they [Elmira] win on their speed.”
The Pioneers beat SUNY Cortland last Thursday in the quarterfinals to earn a spot in the semifinals in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Since then, UC has been able to spend its time prepping for the game and resting the bodies as well.
“When we got through last week against Cortland I was grateful to get a longer week to prepare for the upcoming weekend,” Clausen said. “The team was allowed to get a couple of days off, which then turned into two good practices for us. It’s been nice to have a long stretch without a game.”
The long week does not only prep the team better, but also allows the players to focus more as well. The Pioneers came close to beating Elmira earlier this season and the feeling of losing to them hasn’t gone away.
“I think the team’s focusing more this week than any other week,” junior goalie Keira Goin said. “The tempo of practice has been higher and we have a strong desire to do well. None of us have forgotten about the last matchup against Elmira, which fuels us.”
Since the two games in November, UC has gone through several changes in its lineup that have proven to be successful so far.
“We are a different team from November,” Goin said. “We have lines setup now and our first line didn’t get the chance to produce as much as they are now. Our young players have grown confident with experience throughout the season and have been able to mesh with everyone as well.”
The team that wins on Saturday will advance to the ECAC West Championship scheduled for that Sunday. Even though the game against Utica and Elmira isn’t a championship game, it sure feels like one.
“The team that scores on the power play will be the one to get through the weekend,” Clausen said. “It is two evenly matched teams playing on Saturday that are playing with confidence late in the season. This is the kind of game expected in the championship and it’s going to be a battle.”
The game against Elmira is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. on Saturday. The Pioneers seem to be playing confident at the right time of the season, which could be the key they need to win.
“The focus this week has been ‘lets get this done this weekend,’” Clausen said.
Featured Image; UC defeated SUNY Cortland 5-0 last Thursday. Senior Morgan Reed had one goal and one assist on the night. Photo taken by Jeff Pexton.