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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Women’s Ice Hockey Upsets First Place RPI

Photo by Jason Campos
Photo by Jason Campos

Coming off a three game winning streak, the UMass women’s ice hockey team had a tough weekend lined up facing the first place team in the conference, Rensselaer Polytechnic. RPI had a 12-2-1 record coming into the game, losing to only one conference team, Manhattanville, the second place team who beat the Beacons 11-1 twice in the season.

RPI brought an intimidating feeling to the Clark Athletic Center with bright red uniforms, an outstanding record, and a cadre of fans with synchronized cheers. But the Beacons were determined and shutdown any momentum the visitors came into the game with. The first period witnessed a lot of close calls at the UMB net but great saves by goalie Amanda Boucher (#31) prevailed.

As the Clark Athletic Center welcomed back school mascot Bobby Beacon in the second period, the Beacons began to take charge. One minute into the period Melissa Belmonte (#23), with an assist by Keri Zizzo (#6), put one in RPI’s net with a wrap around shot. Despite three power plays for RPI in the second period, Boucher and the Beacons contained RPI’s offensive efforts and kept them scoreless for another period.

On a power play for UMB early into the third period, Kristin Wilson rocketed one into the net with another assist by Zizzo and Molly Norton (#3) that put the Beacons up by two. Wilson’s score was her first goal of the season. After a near goal by RPI on the power play, Belmonte came up big with her second goal of the game assisted by ECAC East Co-Player of the Week, freshman Andrea Ciarletta (#13).

As UMB’s lead began to increase, tensions for RPI began to grow and at several points in the game it looked like a classic hockey fight would break out. But the Beacons stayed focussed and played tough defense, stifling RPI’s scoring attempts for nearly the remainder of the game. The Beacons defense got a little too tough perhaps in the last five minutes of the game and were given two penalties at 15:31 for cross checking and obstruction. This gave RPI a 5-3 power play and the advantage they needed to break the shutout and put one past UMB’s goaltender.

The Beacons success was a product of great teamwork and communication. “Between periods I didn’t even know what to say, they were doing so well!” said Head Coach Laura Schuler. “We played with discipline and continued to do all the little things.” Schuler also noted that it was exciting to see people like Chancellor Jo Ann Gora and Vice Chancellor Keith Motley at such an important game.

A round of applause also had to go to goalie Amanda Boucher who had 35 saves in the game and shut out RPI on the power play seven of eight times. This freshman goaltender has created such an impenetrable wall around the crease it was like watching Patrick Roy tend goal.

In the rematch on Sunday at the Clark Athletic Center, RPI was looking for revenge after being upset the previous day by the Beacons as well as getting knocked down to second place in the conference. RPI opened up the first period with a quick slapshot goal. Then with 4:01 left in the period some sloppy puck handling in front of the UMB goal led to the second RPI goal. The UMass offense had some good shots on net but came up empty.

The second period remained scoreless as the Beacons missed many opportunities for scoring by not getting enough shots on goal. Rensselaer had 12 shots on goal opposed to the Beacons’ 5. Adding to her two goals from Saturday’s game, Andrea Ciarletta, assisted by Annie Larson (#19), put in her 29th goal of the season, bringing the Beacons within one.

Still on fire in the net was Amanda Boucher who kept RPI scoreless for the second and third periods. This included keeping RPI scoreless on a 5-3 power play during the third period and stopping cold 39 shots, making her total against RPI this weekend 74. The Beacons’ defense prevented any RPI scoring in the game during the power play all seven times.

Though the rematch for UMass ended in a 2-1 loss, this weekend was a great test of strength, skill, and endurance for the playoffs. Adding a fourth game to their win streak with a huge 3-1 win on Friday and another strong showing on Saturday, the women’s ice hockey team is not only ready for the playoffs, but they have proved their excellence in the rink. The season’s last two games will be against Holy Cross on Friday, February 20 at 7pm and Saturday, February 21 at 3pm at the Clark Athletic Center.