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Clarkson, SLU women net overtime win in playoff openers

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POTSDAM — Seventh-seed Rensselaer gave the Clarkson University women’s hockey team a scare in the ECAC hockey playoff opener Friday night at Cheel Arena.

But a tip-in goal in overtime by captain Carly Mercer gave the No. 2 Golden Knights a 3-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarterfinal series which continues at 4 p.m. today. If Clarkson wins it will advance to the semifinals next weekend. If RPI wins there will be a deciding game at 4 p.m. Sunday.

“I didn’t see a whole lot,” Mercer said of the play. “I just saw (Jamie Lee Rattray) throw it towards the net and I just wanted to be there to set a screen and it just happened to hit me and go in. I didn’t even know it went in. I hear it barely crossed the line.”

Clarkson (27-8 overall) beat RPI twice during the regular season but the Engineers (10-21-4) never let the Golden Knights stay in a comfortable position throughout game one.

“This was a great game here tonight,” RPI coach John Burke said. “We knew this was going to be a long, tough series here and our goal is to get to Sunday. I thought our kids did a really good job responding in those key situations. We are a very mentally tough team. We’ll be back (today).”

Clarkson struck first in Friday’s game when Vanessa Gagnon scored on a shot from the circle at 3 minutes, 42 seconds of the opening period.

But midway through the first period Clarkson’s Shannon MacAulay was called for roughing and RPI took advantage with a power-play goal by Alexa Gurschow, which was set up by a pass from Jordan Smelker, to tie the game 1-1 at 10:53 of the first period.

“Especially in playoffs the game is all about momentum, so you want to keep the momentum when you have it instead of giving it back to them,” Clarkson co-coach Shannon Desrosiers said. “It’s always easy to be the underdog. I think our team has handled it really well. We’ve kind of had the bull’s-eye on the back since the first weekend. I think we handled it well in overtime and we just believed. We knew we’d get the job done.” The game remained in the 1-1 tie until 11:05 of the third period when Rattray scored a goal while lying on her belly. She was knocked to the ice in front of RPI goalie Kelly O’Brien but still poked a shot between her legs to give Clarkson a 2-1 advantage.

“I have no idea (what happened),” Rattray said. “I kind of got tripped up and just put it to the net. I just heard the horn go off. I don’t know if the goalie thought I was going to shoot it after I fell. I’m glad it went in. I kind of got a lucky bounce there.”

Just as it did in the first period, RPI had an answer when Clarkson took a lead and it started with another power play as Olivia Howe was called for tripping at 14:02.

The Engineers scored exactly two minutes later on a shot from Taylor Horton, but it came a second after the power play had expired.

“I thought we did pretty good at being calm (in overtime),” Rattray said. “We got off to kind of a rough start in the beginning and then we kind of calmed ourselves down. We got back to our game and I think we got the momentum back through a power play there. All we have to do is stick to our game and that’s what we did and that’s what made us win the game.”

“I expect us to have more in the tank,” Desrosiers said. “I think that game could give us confidence. I’m looking forward to a good effort tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to a good effort from (RPI) too. They are playing for their lives.”

SLU OUTLASTS QUINNIPIAC

It took nearly 71:00 minutes of hockey, but the St. Lawrence University women’s hockey team got its ECAC Hockey title defense underway successfully on Friday evening. Sophomore Kayla Raniwsky scored at 10:56 of overtime on a wrap-around try from behind the net, giving the Saints a thrilling 1-0 quarterfinal game one victory over Quinnipiac University at the High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden, CT.

The Saints (18-12-5) and Bobcats (19-11-4) had played a fantastic back-and-forth game, with both goaltenders, St. Lawrence’s Carmen MacDonald and Quinnipiac’s Victoria Vigilanti, playing brilliantly.

The game-winner came off a pass from Jackie Wand, as Raniwsky circled to Vigilanti’s right and poked it past the Bobcat goaltender on a second effort for her first game-winner as a member of the Saints.

Both teams piled up chances throughout the game, as Quinnipiac closed the contest with a 46-39 lead in shots on goal. MacDonald had her best performance of the year, making some incredible saves including a diving effort in the first period to rob Quinnipiac of a power play tally and a brilliant rebound stop on Nicole Connery in the second.

MacDonald earned her second shutout of the year thanks to the 46-save effort, including seven in overtime. Vigilanti continued her outstanding play with 38 saves, but came up one save short of the win.

St. Lawrence and Quinnipiac will meet in game two of the best-of-three series today at 4 p.m.



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