Compiled by D3hockey.com staff --
Friday's first semifinal will feature top-ranked Plattsburgh State against Norwich. Slated for a 3:00 p.m. EDT puck drop at Adrian's Arrington Arena, the matchup is the third of the season between the two squads. Plattsburgh holds a 2-0 record over Norwich this year as the Cardinals downed the Cadets, 3-1, on November 16 and again by the same score on January 8.
|Plattsburgh State is looking to become the first women's Division III team to win four straight national titles.
Photo: Plattsburgh State Athletics
This year's Frozen Four appearance marks the sixth-straight and eleventh overall for three-time defending champion Plattsburgh, while Norwich will make their sixth Frozen Four appearance in search of a second NCAA title. Norwich and Plattsburgh met at the championship site in Norwich's last two tournament appearances in 2014 and 2015. This will be the fourth NCAA meeting between the two schools all-time, with Plattsburgh taking two out of three.
Plattsburgh won its way into the tournament by winning the ECAC West postseason championship by a very close shave, 2-1 against Elmira. Plattsburgh held the advantage in their quarterfinal with a pair of unanswered goals to break a 2-2 tie, and ended up with a 4-2 win over St. Thomas.
NEHC champion Norwich is a return entrant to the tournament after a one year hiatus. UMass-Boston claimed the 2016 Pool A bid for the league with a 2-0 shutout win over the Cadets last year, leaving Norwich out in the cold when selections came out.
PLATTSBURGH STATE CARDINALS (26-1-1)
PLATTSBURGH STATE CARDINALS
Record: 26-1-1 overall, 16-1-1 ECAC West
Location: Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier, ECAC West Playoff Champion
NCAA Tournament History: 13th appearance, 23-8-0 overall
Road to the Frozen Four: W 4-2 v. St. Thomas
Scoring offense: 4.57 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.11 g/gm
Power Play: 22.7%
Penalty Kill: 92.0%
Players to Watch: F, jr., Kayla Meneghin (18-26-44); F, jr., Melissa Sheeran (31-13-44); F, sr., Jordan Lipson (14-16-30); F, so, Courtney Moriarty (10-15-25); D, jr., Megan Crandell (3-21-24); D, sr., Erin Brand (8-15-23); G, jr., Camille Leonard (23-1-0, 1.09, .946)
Another season, another appearance by Plattsburgh in the semifinals. The Cardinals make their record eleventh appearance in the remaining field of four teams after advancing with a quarterfinal win over St. Thomas, and will once again do so as the favorite in the field with wins over both remaining teams they've played.
In fact, they've beaten pretty much everyone. Save for a tie against Buffalo State, and an early season loss against Oswego, the Cardinals have run the table otherwise and are unbeaten in their last 21 games.
Statistically, there's a fair degree of evidence beyond that streak to suggest that this is still Plattsburgh's title to lose. The Cardinals sport the best scoring defense, and the second best scoring offense in the country, even if they didn't have as dominant of a run as maybe they did last season, when they held their opponents under a goal per game on average the entire year.
Offensively, Melissa Sheeran was well-entrenched in the Laura Hurd discussion as the ECAC Women's West Player of the Year before losing out on that distinction to UW-River Falls's Dani Sibley, the national points champion, and Kayla Meneghin was right in that discussion as well but wasn't quite a finalist this go-round.
Defensively, Erin Brand and Megan Crandell continue to hold it down for the Cards in front of new Division III wins queen Camille Leonard, and that entire unit has still looked fairly strong in five-on-five situations, and Leonard has won two of these as a starter and is working on a third, and a fourth as a member of this team along with the senior class.
So this begs the question. Does this year's edition of the Cardinals have a real weakness? It can't be said there's a bona fide one, but there are some cracks in the armor showing against some of the elites at this time of the year, with their past two games won on the margins.
The Cards needed a third period goal to get past Elmira in the ECAC West Conference title game, and the otherwise staunch penalty kill sagged for two against St. Thomas in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Sure, these are things that happen when you play elite competition, but against a team like Plattsburgh, you have to apply leverage in more than one way if you want to beat them. This Cardinal team may not necessarily be indestructible, but they're still as tough to beat as they've been on average.
NORWICH CADETS (23-5-1)
Record: 23-5-1 overall, 15-2-0 NEHC
Location: Northfield, Vt.
Road to the NCAAs: Pool A automatic qualifier, NEHC Playoff Champion
NCAA Tournament History: 8th appearance; 10-6-0
Road to the Frozen Four: W 5-4 (2ot) @ Middlebury
Scoring offense: 4.38 g/gm
Scoring defense: 1.41 g/gm
Power Play: 30.5%
Penalty Kill: 85.8%
Players to Watch: F, jr., Sarah Schwenzfeier (19-20-39); F, so., Adireana Rossini (16-17-33); F, fr., Amanda Conway (20-8-28); F, so., Bryn Labbe (9-19-28); D, jr., Kim Tiberi (13-25-38); G, jr., Laurie King (19-2-1, 1.19, .936)
The NEHC champions are back after a one year absence in the NCAA tournament.
In a sequence of collectively tight NCAA quarterfinals, the Cadets took it one step forward by making the critical play at the right time in overtime as a goal from Sophie McGovern in double overtime propelled them past in-state rival Middlebury for a spot in these semifinals.
After a strong season with 23 wins, the Cadets have the resume' to be viable in this spot. They sport a top-10 offense and defense, have a starter in net they're comfortable with in Laurie King, and had a one goal game going against the Cardinals in the third period earlier this year, a game where the shot count was a mere plus two for Plattsburgh.
With all of that said, we just spoke about how any opponent in Division III really has to deliver in all facets to beat Plattsburgh on a given night. That especially holds true for your strengths, and the power play unit is Norwich's biggest strength. By percentage, that unit is the best still going in this tournament, and there's depth and diversity in that attack.
Three different players have five or more power play goals, paced by rookie Amanda Conway's nine, while Kim Tiberi has netted seven from the back end. That unit did pick up a goal against Middlebury, but will need to finish at a plus over whatever Plattsburgh's output is in this game to have the best possible chance.
That unit also aids in the composition of what is a strong overall attack for the Cadets at 4.38 goals per game, with two lines primarily relied upon to put the puck in the net for Norwich, and there aren't a lot of seniors around on this team as a collective, which may lead to an even bigger long term payoff after this weekend, regardless of result. Junior Sarah Schwenzfeier is fun to watch, and brings a balanced line at 19-20-39 for the season.
The margin against Plattsburgh also should tighten up against King, who has posted terrific numbers, and a blue line that has remained consistently strong over from last season. The Cardinals are still without question the favorite here going in, but this Cadets team is capable of taking them out, along with Adrian on the other side of the bracket.