Women’s Hockey falls to Nazareth in sudden death overtime championship game


Kayleigh Sturtevant

Three players from the Utica women’s ice hockey team stand alongside each other.

Mickale Thompson, News Editor

Double overtime was needed on March 4 to set things apart as two evenly-poised teams came out for the fifth time for another 20 minutes of play in Rochester. Nazareth College would seal the deal with a third goal 1:55 into the fifth period after Julia Holmes deflected a goal to capture back to back UCHC titles and steal yet another one from the Pioneers. 

Neither team was ready to give up as momentum swung for both sides in a head-to-head puck battle for UCHC supremacy. However, no. 1 ranked Nazareth won the game 3-2, capturing a second championship in two years and earning an automatic NCAA tournament berth. As for Utica, the 22-3-3 team with 17 and 2 losses in UCHC, will look to the selection show on Sunday hoping for an at-large berth.

A deflective shot saved by goaltender of the Year Angela Hawthorne would get things underway as familiar foes clashed in the women’s UCHC championship game at the Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex.

The Golden Flyers would take the lead just shy of five minutes into the first period when top scorer Ally Watrous’s back-end shot went past Hawthorne in front of crease.

Hawthorne would have her work cut out for her again, shutting down a breakaway shot with 7:33 on the clock, one of 14 saves of the night for her in the first. A last-ditch effort in the Nazareth zone would bear no fruit for the Pioneers as the first period ended 1-0 in favor of Nazareth.

In the second period, Utica would enter their first power play of the game but a tough Naz defense would keep them at bay as the Pioneers went in search of an equalizer.

Utica’s best chance of the game thus far would come with 13 minutes on the clock in the second as Maggie Rylott got the go-head breakaway but was shut down by goalie McKinley Hoff. The Pioneers would strike back as forward Rylott came back again and would square things up one all with 14:23 on the clock in the second period.

 A Carly Stefanini one-timer assisted by Player of the Year Erica Sloan with 11 seconds left in the Pioneers second power play doubled the Pioneer’s goal tally sending them into the lead as they went in search for an automatic NCAA tournament berth.

A late effort by Nazareth rattled the crossbar with less than a minute left on the clock but a physical second period would end 2-1 in favor of Utica.

Hawthorne’s 24 saves of the night kept the Pioneers in the game as they looked to avenge their regular season title defeat at the hands of the Golden flyers this season as both teams rolled out for the third and final period.

A Utica penalty at 11:41 into the third sent Nazareth into a power play, their third of the period, which the Pioneers survived. The third saw no goals and with minutes left in the period the Pioneers skated inside the Nazareth zone.

With three and a half minutes left in the third the Golden Flyers went into a second power play of the half as they went in search of a crucial equalizer. The game turned into a four against four after a Nazareth penalty as Watrous’ shot was saved by Hawthorne again.

An interference call against a Pioneer defender turned the game into a four against three with 2:17 on the clock as a back and forth game against the two best teams in the UCHC came down to a nerve racking end. Naz still in search of a goal to seal back to back titles while the Pioneer were intent on holding out for their first ever program title.

With one minute left in the game, the match up  became fast paced in the power play as Hawthorne pulled out another save again.With 8 seconds left in the game number 10 Abby Flanagan with a last effort rebound shot made it 2-2 sending the game into overtime.

Two teams determined to win set up a thrilling 20 minutes of overtime as they skated back out onto the ice. A face off to the left of Utica’s goal created a chance for Nazareth but the shot steered wide of Hawthorne as both teams evenly matched went in search for a winner.

Hawthorne with 48 saves on the night stood firm in the goal for the Pioneers in their first ever championship game but in the end the Pioneers were unable to withstand the 51 shots from the opposition with led to three winning goals in a high level championship matchup.