WILLIAMSTOWN -- Next year, the Williams women's hockey team will get to hang a banner of their own inside Lansing Chapman Rink. Right now, that's the last thing on their minds.
The Ephs will be heading north this weekend to play their first NCAA Division III tournament game since 2003, when coach Meghan Gillis' team will travel to Plattsburgh for a date with Plattsburgh State, the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.
"Once you get to this part of the season, there are no easy games," said Gillis. "They're a challenging opponent."
The Cardinals and Ephs played just about two months ago, with Plattsburgh skating into Lansing Chapman Rink and leaving with a 4-1 win.
In that game, Plattsburgh jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Cristina Bravi's power-play goal at 11:25 made it 2-1.
Three minutes later, Williams' Chelsey Stevenson was called for tripping, giving the Cardinals a power play. Then Bravi and Jenny Kistner were sent off for roughing, and Plattsburgh had a 4-on-3 advantage. Eleven seconds after the matching minors, Alyssa Parke gave the Cardinals a two-goal lead.
Plattsburgh outshot Williams 46-29, with Eph goalie Charlie Billadeau making 42 saves. Billadeau, the NESCAC women's hockey player of the week for this past week, will be counted on again to have a big night.
The Eph head coach said that things could be much different when they played each other in January.
"Obviously, it's very different in terms of having gained experience for the underclassmen," said Gillis, "[also], the confidence that comes with having the NESCAC championship and the belief that they are a talented group."
Plattsburgh enters the NCAA Tournament with a sterling 25-1-1 record. Their only loss came to Elmira on Feb. 7, and the Cardinals got their revenge on Sunday by beating Elmira 4-3 in the ECAC West championship game.
The only other blemish on the Plattsburgh record is a 1-1 tie with Amherst in the Panther/Cardinal Classic at Middlebury right after Thanksgiving.
The NCAA Division III women's hockey tournament involves only eight teams; five conference champions get automatic bids and there are three at-large teams. The Final Four will be hosted by the highest seeded team still standing after this weekend.
The tournament starts on Friday night when St. Thomas (Minn.) hosts Wisconsin-Stevens Point. On Saturday, Elmira will travel to Norwich and Lake Forest will play at Wisconsin-River Falls.
Williams didn't practice on Monday, as Gillis gave her team a day off to recharge and to get school work done. The Ephs will be at work starting today before heading to upstate New York for Saturday afternoon's game.
"It was good to have the day off [Monday]." she said. "We'll get back at it at 4:30 [today]."
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