Plattsburgh: 2019 NCAA Division III final four preview

Plattsburgh: 2019 NCAA Division III final four preview

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – The Plattsburgh State women's ice hockey team continues its quest to win its seventh overall NCAA Division III national title on Friday, March 15, at the University of St. Thomas' St. Thomas Academy Ice Arena, as the the Cardinals take on Adrian College in the semifinal round of the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Tournament at 3 p.m. (CT)/4 p.m. (ET). St. Thomas and Hamline University square off in the other semifinal-round game at 7 p.m., with the two semifinal winners to play for the national championship on Saturday, March 16, at 7 p.m. The third-place game will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday.
TICKET PRICING: Ticket prices are $25 for an adult all-session pass to all four games and $15 for students and seniors. Single-day passes are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors and $7 for youth under the age of 12. Tickets are available beginning at 1:30 p.m. both days.
IN THE RANKINGS Women's Div. III Top-10 Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses)
1. St. Thomas (13)
2. Plattsburgh State (2)
4. Hamline
5. Adrian Women's Top-10 Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses)
2. Plattsburgh State (4)
3. St. Thomas (3)
4. Adrian
6. Hamline

Plattsburgh State qualified for its 15th NCAA Division III Tournament in program history, earning the automatic qualifier out of the Northeast Women's Hockey League (NEWHL). It marked the second year of the NEWHL, which carried over the remaining five members (Buffalo State, SUNY Cortland, Oswego State, Plattsburgh State and SUNY Potsdam) from the ECAC West beginning in 2017-18. All five schools in the conference are part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system.

The Cardinals are in their 13th overall and eighth consecutive national semifinal after defeating Williams College, 5-3, in the NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinals this past Saturday. Plattsburgh State is seeking its seventh overall national title. The Cardinals are also looking to make the championship game for the eighth time in program history. The only national championship game in which Plattsburgh State appeared that did not result in a win for the Cardinals was a 3-1 loss to Middlebury College in 2005-06. Plattsburgh State has won more NCAA Division III national titles than any other school in Division III women's ice hockey history.

Plattsburgh State reeled in several awards from the NEWHL this postseason. Courtney Moriarty was selected as the NEWHL Player of the Year and joined Annie KatonkaMackenzie MillenHannah Kiraly and Kassi Abbott on the All-NEWHL First Team. Erin McArdle earned a spot on the All-NEWHL Second Team. Following the team's 5-0 win over Cortland in the NEWHL Tournament championship game, Moriarty was named the Tournament MVP, while Katonka and McArdle joined her on the AllTournament Team. In addition, by virtue of her NEWHL Player of the Year honor, Moriarty is a finalist for the Laura Hurd Memorial Award, which is awarded annually to the top women's ice hockey student-athlete in NCAA Division III. CCM/AHCA All-America honors and the Laura Hurd Award were handed out at Thursday's banquet, but the honorees were not known at the time of publication.

For the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament, the national semifinal field features three teams from the West Region. Plattsburgh State and Adrian have been frequent opponents since their first meeting in 2015-16, as they have played each other seven times during that span. The Cardinals hold a 6-1-0 all-time record against Adrian, which included a split this season. Most notably, Plattsburgh State came from behind to edge the Bulldogs, 4-3, in overtime in the 2017 national championship game at Adrian. The opposite semifinal game features a pair of opponents that the Cardinals have met in the NCAA Tournament in recent years. Plattsburgh State is 3-0-0 all-time against St. Thomas, with its most recent win in the series coming in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on March 11, 2017. Hamline, meanwhile, is the only current Division III team that has a winning all-time record against the Cardinals, as the Pipers prevailed, 5-4, in overtime in the third-place game last year. That marked the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Both St. Thomas and Hamline are members of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and their campuses are separated by just three miles in St. Paul, Minn. St. Thomas qualified for the tournament via the MIAC's automatic bid, while Hamline was an at-large selection.

Several student-athletes contribute to a potent Cardinal offense that leads NCAA Division III with 5.00 goals per game. Annie Katonka leads Division III in power-play goals (11) and goals (30), and she ranks second nationally in points per game (1.72) and goals per game (1.03). Courtney Moriarty ranks 15th in Division III in points per game (1.34), while Mackenzie Millen is 10th nationally in assists per game (0.79). Millen leads the team in assists with 23. Erin McArdle and Hannah Kiraly are among the top offensive blueliners in Division III, ranking fifth (0.86) and tying for 15th (0.72) in points per game, respectively. Nicole Unsworth is 11th in points per game among freshmen (0.96), while Taylor Whitney ranks 12th in the same statistical category (0.93). Kassi Abbott has proven to be one of Division III's top goaltenders this year, leading the nation in goals-against average (0.81) and winning percentage (.931) while tying for the national lead in shutouts (13). She ranks third in Division III in save percentage (.954). While Plattsburgh State has put up impressive offensive numbers this year, it has also boasted the top scoring defense in Division III (0.79 goals allowed per game, 14 shutouts). The Cardinals also lead the country in scoring margin (+4.21 goals per game), penalty kill percentage (.965), combined special teams (.603) and winning percentage (.931). The Cardinals boast a 16- game unbeaten streak, which is the longest active streak among all Division III teams competing this weekend. Plattsburgh State finished the season 16-0-0 at home and enters this weekend at 9-0-0 on the road. The Cardinals are 2-2-0 at neutral sites.

Sixteenth-year head coach Kevin Houle leads the Cardinals and has a 395-50-25 overall record, while Adrian is led by first-year head coach Shawn Skelly, who sports a 23-4-2 overall mark. In the other semifinal game, 12th-year head coach Tom Palkowski leads St. Thomas with a 202-85-36 overall record, while Hamline's fourth-year head coach Natalie Darwitz sports a 65-34-10 overall mark.