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Clarkson: Your 2018 Back-to-Back National Champions

It took another overtime game for Clarkson to beat Colgate 2-1 and win their second in a row, third overall, NCAA national championship.

Clarkson celebrating their victory with Natty, the national championship trophy in their 2-1(OT) victory over Colgate at the Frozen Four.
Cat Lenander

Sunday afternoon the first puck of the NCAA Frozen Four Championship game dropped at 2:00 PM CT in Ridder Arena. The teams were the newcomers Colgate, playing in their first Frozen Four, against defending national champs Clarkson and it was the first time an NCAA game had come down to an ECAC final match up. Understandably, both teams put out their best lines and their best goaltenders, which meant Colgate had Julia Vandyk in goal, while Clarkson continued to rely upon Shea Tiley.

While Colgate had the first shot of the game, they also took the first penalty when Annika Zalewski tripped a Knight as she entered their zone at 1:19. Clarkson did a fair amount of puck cycling and shooting on the resulting power play, but were unable to convert. After that the Raiders dominated puck control for most of the period—save for a minute a little before the halfway mark—where they created a lot of chaos as they racked up shots and only returned to their own zone to take the puck back from a Knight.

Despite Colgate’s dominance, it was Clarkson who scored first when Cassidy Vinkle flew down the left side and knocked the puck home, top shelf, from the bottom of the circle at 16:29. Kelly Mariani had the lone assist. This breathed a lot of new energy into Clarkson, especially when Malia Schneider boarded Vinkle at 18:11, which put them back on the power play. The Knights had some rapid shots that forced Vandyk to go from piper to pipe, but the penalty eventually expired harmlessly early in the second period.

Once the Raiders were back to full strength Breanne Wilson-Bennett got stuck along Clarkson’s right side boards thanks to several Knights, so she passed to Olivia Zafuto in the slot. Zafuto immediately gave it to Schneider for the close left side tip in at 2:27, tying the game. Elizabeth Giguere had a very nice 5-hole attempt after carrying the puck into Colgate’s zone and reclaiming the puck after the defense stole it, but was denied. Lauren Lefler earned a tripping penalty at 8:29, which was killed just as Tiley made an excellent toe save on Jessie Eldridge’s shot and Bailey Larson sent the rebound wide.

Jessie Eldridge making a shot on goal. Honestly Colgate and Clarkson was so evenly matched that either could have won at any moment throughout the game.
Cat Lenander

Giguere shot after flying down the right side, but Shelby Wood tripped her sending the puck wide, which put Clarkson back on the power play at 11:31. Eldridge had an excellent puck chasing from end to end of the right before Josiane Pozzebon took a roughing penalty at 15:41. Colgate piled on shots forcing Tiley to really scramble in goal, but when the period ended the teams were still tied 1-1, with shots 23-21 in Clarkson’s favor.

Clarkson looked good at the start of the third, completely dominating play for the first four minutes of so of the period. Ella Shelton repeatedly shoved Wilson-Bennett when she got too close to Tiley after a save. The Knights then had a frenzy around Vandyk, which ended with Rhyen McGill and Zafuto going to the box at 5:31 for holding and hooking respectively.

With the opened ice Loren Gabel got a couple of shots off, the second of which had Clarkson fans on their feet cheering over, as they thought she had scored at 6:26. However, under review it was determined to be a no goal, as the puck hit the inside of the post, but did not fully cross the goal line. The Knights continued piling on shots throughout the rest of the period, eventually outshooting them 36-28, but did not come as close to scoring again. Nor did Colgate, though they had an excellent final minute of the period, and the game went to overtime.

Everyone on and off the ice was tired when overtime started, as it was the third OT in as many games. When chasing the puck in Colgate’s zone Eldridge fell and accidentally crashed into her own net, though Vandyk was able to avoid the collision. The Raiders had a nice attack for a while before they lost the puck and it turned into a 3-on-1 on their own goal that was eventually foiled. Clarkson blocked three more Colgate shots before Giguere caught the puck and had a breakaway down center ice. Vandyk went down for the save, but Giguere held onto the puck long enough to skate past the goaltender and tuck it in behind her on the left side, scoring at 7:55.

Clarkson dog-piling Elizabeth Giguere after her game winning goal in overtime.
Cat Lenander

With that goal Clarkson had won 2-1 in overtime, making them back-to-back NCAA national champions. They also remain the only team outside of the WCHA to have won an NCAA national championship—a couple of eastern teams had won the national award before the NCAA took over—which leads some to jokingly wonder if perhaps Clarkson should switch conferences. Considering how far Clarkson is from the entirety of the WCHA that’s unlikely to ever happen, especially as the ECAC would never willingly give up their three-time overall national champions. Congratulations on your victory, Clarkson. You, and Colgate, have shown there’s a lot more parity in the league than there used to be and that’s the best news Women’s DI collegiate hockey could get.