A young St. Lawrence University women’s hockey team gained some important experience for the future and learned some lessons Sunday falling 3-2 to top-seeded Colgate in the ECAC Hockey championship game at the Class of 1965 Arena in Hamilton.
It was SLU’s first championship game appearance since 2012 and SLU was attempting to win a fifth straight game after taking four straight against Clarkson to reach the title game.
The Saints were again missing head coach Chris Wells and senior captain Skylar Podvey to COVID-19 quarantine.
“We knew what to expect coming into this game,” Saints assistant Mare MacDougall Bari said. “(Colgate) is fast, they are creative. We are happy with our effort. We give our kids a ton of credit for the last two months of hockey. The way we played was just good enough. We were knocking on the door. I don’t want to take anything away from the Colgate team and their effort. That was a great game to be a part of.”
The Saints (6-7 overall) nearly scored early in the contest when Julia Gosling took a shot 71 seconds into the game. The puck bounced off Raiders goalie Kayle Osborne right to SLU’s Anna Segedi, who was alone near the crease. Segedi just missed connecting with the shot, which would have been to an open portion of the net.
The Saints did score first, regardless, when freshman Rachel Bjorgan connected off a pass from Gabi Jones at 7:59 of the opening period. Aly McLeod also assisted.
But Colgate (15-6-1) did not trail for long, tying the game 1-1 at 13:03 of the opening period as Kaitlyn O’Donohoe scored as she was falling to the ice between the circles.
There was a video review on a play at 14:50 of the opening period after a flurry of shots in front of the net were stopped by SLU goalie Lucy Morgan. There was no indication of the puck ever crossing the line so the score stayed tied.
The Saints, who entered the game having scored on a national-best 23.3 percent of their power plays, had chances to take the lead again in the second period when they spent five of the first 11 minutes on the power play.
But Colgate’s penalty kill, which was effective 86.6 percent heading into the game, limited SLU’s chances.
“I think this will help us a lot in the future,” Gosling said. “We have a really young team. We made it this far and I’m so proud of this team. Next year it’s our plan to come back here and hopefully win the championship. I think next year we will be ready to go and we’ll have a normal season and hopefully no quarantine or anything. Our team has been through so much. I’m really excited for next year.”
The Raiders took the lead for good early in the second period when Kalty Kaltounkova scored a power-play goal at 2:55. That goal put SLU behind in a game for the first time in 277 minutes, 17 seconds.
Colgate extended its lead to 3-1 on a goal at 2:50 of the third period from Sammy Smigliani, with Rosy Demers assisting on a nice pass.
The Saints fought back and cut the lead to one goal again on a breakaway goal from Bjorgan at 6:29, for her second goal of the contest.
“The whole game we were just working hard,” Bjorgan said. “We never felt like we were down on ourselves. We wanted to bring all the energy throughout the game. The second goal put us back in the game and got us fired up. It was a great team effort.”
Colgate, which held the Saints to 16 shots, made it hard for SLU to keep possession of the puck for long late in the game. SLU couldn’t pull Morgan for an extra attacker in an attempt to tie the score until there were less than 10 seconds left in the game.
The Raiders will be the only ECAC Hockey team to make the eight-team NCAA Tournament field, picking up an automatic bid with the win. They will join seven other teams in Erie, Pa., for quarterfinal matchups March 15-16. The Frozen Four will begin March 19, with the semifinals and the national title game March 21.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” Raiders coach Greg Fargo said. “Today in the game we really stuck with our game plan from start to finish. To celebrate this way, it’s a great group.
“This is a real team that has come together and played like a team. This year was all about just controlling what we could. To their credit, all the way through we’ve just continued to control the things we could.”