History was made on Saturday evening, as the RIT women’s hockey team (28-1-1) claimed its first NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey National Championship, scoring three third period goals to snap a 1-1 tie and defeat defending National Champion Norwich University (27-3-1) 4-1 in front of 1,195 fans at Ritter Arena. It is the third national championship won by any RIT team in the history of the University.
RIT set a Division III single-season record with 28 wins. The Tigers also avenged last year's lost to Norwich in the national title game.
Sophomore goaltender Laura Chamberlain (Norco, CA) stopped 27 shots and was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She also made 34 saves in yesterday’s dramatic, 2-1 overtime win over Plattsburgh State and finished the season with a 17-1-1 mark and led Division III with a 1.09 goals against average, and .945 save percentage.
Celeste Brown (Great Falls, MT) and Kourtney Kunichika (Fullerton, CA) combined to set up or score all three goals in just over a 10-minute span to break the tie.
Brown broke the 1-1 tie 1:23 mark, taking a perfect feed from Kunichika on a 2-on-1 and sliding a shot past Fisk on the open side from in tigh at the left side of the net.
At the 8:39 mark, Brown caused a turnover in the Norwich corner and kicked a pass to Kunichika, who was all alone in front. Kunichika calmly deked Fisk and slid a backhander into the open side for her 20th goal of the season.
Just 3:20 later, Brown broke in with Kunichika and had a chance stopped by Fisk, but senior Ali Hills (Honeoye Falls, NY) crashed the net and slammed in the rebound from the slot for her second goal of the season.
Kristina Moss (Webster, NY) also scored for the Tigers. She was named to the All-Tournament Team.
RIT was 1-for-4 on the power-play and held Norwich, the nation’s highest scoring team, to zero goals in seven attempts with the man-advantage.
Kuncihika, who was also named to the All-Tournament Team, tallied a goal and three assists tonight, and now has 20 points (10-10-20) in 10 career postseason games. She led RIT in scoring this season with 45 points on 20 goals and 25 assists in 30 games.
Jackie Perez scored Norwich's lone goal. Fisk made 28 saves.
RIT Head Coach Scott McDonald thought his team gave an unbelievable effort tonight.
“Winning the national championship feels awesome,” said McDonald, who is now 135-22-10 in six seasons at RIT. “I was getting tired taking about last year (losing in the NCAA Championship game). This is a team that played hard thoughout the season. Going into the third period tonight at 1-1, we knew we weren’t losing. We wanted it more, blocked shots, got in lanes, did all the little things that allowed us to win.”
Both teams scored once in a hectic first period, where seven penalties were called. Norwich killed off 1:37 of a RIT 5-on-3 power-play in the first four minutes of the game, doing a great job keeping the Tigers to the outside.
Moss got the Tigers on the board on the power-play, 9:06 into the game, as she fired a shot off a Norwich player and past Fisk for her seventh goal of the season. Kim Schlattman (Stratford, Ontario) fed Kunichika behind the net who fired a pass of a Norwich defenseman right to Moss in the high slot. Moss' hard shot went off a Norwich defenseman and past Fisk.
Right after, RIT ran into penalty problems which turned the momentum of the first period. RIT killed off nearly a minute of a 5-on-3, but were shorthanded for the better part of four minutes.
Norwich tied the game at the 14:47 mark, as Perez jammed home a rebound in tight off a shot from Stephanie Invern. Marie-Phillip Guay started the rush and fed Invern who was able to get a strong shot off from the slot. Chamberlain made the save, but Perez beat her player to the net and put the rebound in.
Ariane Yokoyama (Van Nuys, CA) had a golden chance to give RIT the lead late in the first period, taking a feed from Kunichika on a 2-on-1, but just missed wide.
RIT dominated the second period, out-shooting Norwich, 12-4, but Fisk kept the Tigers off the board with some big saves.
The line of Erin Zach (Elmira, Ontario), Marissa Maugeri (Ajax, Ontario), and Hills were buzzing all period, generating several chances. Zach was stoned in tight by Fisk, with the rebound coming to Maugeri, who could not get the puck over the Norwich goalie.
Twice more, RIT thought they had taken the lead on scrambles in front, but Fisk and the Norwich defense were able to keep the puck out. Tenecia Hiller (Brampton, Ontario) had a golden chance that Fisk stopped, but the rebound was sitting in the crease but the Tigers could not get to the loose puck.
RIT is now 5-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament competition in three trips. Last season, RIT advanced to the NCAA Championship game, defeating Adrian in the quarterfinals, 10-1, Middlebury in the semifinals, 5-2, before losing to Amherst in the championship game, 5-2.
Last weekend, the Tigers defeated Concordia (Minn.) in the first round, 5-2 at Ritter Arena behind a hat-trick from Kolbee McCrea (Wawa, Ontario). Yesterday, Lindsay Grigg (Oakville, Ontario) scored 2:30 into overtime to lift RIT to a dramatic, 2-1 win over Plattsburgh in the NCAA Semifinal.
RIT is now 54-3-3 over the last two seasons.
"I'm on Cloud NIne right now," said junior defenseman Kristina Moss. "This is just an unbelievable feeling."
Plattsburgh won the third place game, defeating Gustavus Adolphus, 4-3 in overtime.
RIT's men's hockey team won the Division II title in 1983 and won the Division III title in 1985.
All Tournament Team
G, Kelly Fisk, Norwich
D, Sarianne Lynn, Norwich
D, Kristina Moss, RIT
F, Jenny Kistner, Plattsburgh
F, Julie Fortier, Norwich
F, Kourtney Kunichika, F, RIT
Most Outstanding Player: Laura Chamberlain, G, RIT