No. 4 – Women's Ice Hockey tops UNE in OT for first-ever playoff win
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – As Panther Nation gears up for the start of the 2018-19 season, we've decided to look back at the impressive 2017-18 year in Plymouth State Athletics. Over the next few weeks we will reflect on some of the most exciting performances of last season while counting down the Top Ten Moments of 2017-18.
No. 4: Women's Ice Hockey tops UNE in OT for first-ever playoff win
For fans of the Plymouth State women's ice hockey team, the writing has been on the wall for the last couple of years. This is a program on the rise.
PSU posted a program-record 10 wins in the 2015-16 season, the team's first year in the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC). The 2016-17 team earned eight wins, the second most all-time, and the quality of play on the ice was improving rapidly.
As each season progressed, the team's expectations also evolved and heading into the 2017-18 season they were as high as they'd ever been.
The Panthers had qualified for the NEHC Tournament in each of the prior two seasons, securing the seventh seed in 2016 and the eighth seed in 2017. Looking to capture the first home playoff game in program history, the team appeared to be in good shape heading into a Feb. 3 match-up with Castleton. Plymouth entered the contest with a narrow, one-point lead over both the Spartans and University of New England for the third spot with just three regular season games remaining.
Despite a strong opening period from the home team, the Spartans were able to pull off a 3-0 win to leapfrog the Panthers in the standings. Luckily for fans of the green-and-white, UNE also lost that afternoon leaving the Panthers in control of their own destiny. A pair of wins on the final weekend of the season would assure the team of a home ice playoff game for the first time.
The Panthers skated past second place UMass Boston by a 3-1 score on Feb. 9, and UNE topped Castleton to keep things close. Heading into Saturday's regular season finale the Spartans held a one point lead over PSU for the third spot, with UNE just a point behind the Panthers. A Plymouth State win over Salve Regina on Senior Day would secure a home game the following weekend.
Things started slowly for the Panthers as Salve Regina raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. PSU scored once in the second to cut the deficit in half, then added a pair of goals in an 80-second span midway through the third to pull in front. Junior Emelie Lindqvist (Gullerasen, Sweden) made five stops and the Panthers killed off a penalty to survive.
Now that the team had earned its first home playoff game, the next task was a playoff win – something that hadn't been accomplished in the 12-year history of the program.
UNE came to Hanaway Rink as the fifth seed. The teams had skated to a 1-1 tie when they met in Plymouth on Nov. 4, but the Nor'easters had earned a 4-1 win in Biddeford in late January. The game featured two of the league's top goalies; Lindqvist, who had just been selected to the All-NEHC Second Team after an outstanding season, and UNE's Caty Flagg, who'd been named NEHC Goaltender of the Year earlier that week.
The home team would set an early tone when junior Brooke Maggy (Los Angeles, Calif.) slipped a backhanded shot past Flagg in the opening two minutes for an early 1-0 lead, but the Nor'easters evened the game 11 minutes later when a UNE skater stuffed a rebound past Lindqvist.
Midway through the second period the visitors pulled ahead when a Nor'easters' wrist shot snuck past a screened Lindqvist, but the Panthers kept the pressure on. Less than a minute later the home team had a shot to even the score following a UNE penalty, but Flagg was able hold the lead.
PSU had another power play chance late in the period and this time the Panthers were able to cash in. With less than ten seconds remaining on the skater advantage, sophomore Olivia MacMillan (Walpole, Mass.) carried the puck in alone before sneaking it past Flagg low to the near side to even the score at two-apiece.
The third period action kept a full Hanaway Rink crowd on the edge of its seats. Although UNE controlled for much of the period, the Plymouth defense was able to limit the visitors to just five shots on goal. Plymouth had a skater advantage following a UNE hooking penalty five-and-a-half minutes in, but Flagg made multiple saves to preserve the tie.
The intensity of the two teams continued to build, as did the back-and-forth excitement between the two fan bases. As the third period ended and sudden-death overtime began it was clear none of the referees were willing to face the scrutiny of a late penalty call. The game had turned into a battle of attrition.
PSU had a chance at the game-winner in the opening minute of overtime when Maggy and sophomore Julie Nagel (Canton, Mass.) streaked in on a 2-on-0 break, but Flagg sealed the post to keep Nagel's backhanded shot out of the net.
UNE's best opportunity came at the 8:30 mark in a 2-on-1 breakaway. Lindqvist stopped the initial shot, then turned aside a shot off the rebound. The loose puck slid through the goal crease untouched as Panther Nation exhaled a sigh of relief.
With both teams inching towards exhaustion and neither goaltender willing to bend, it seemed as though the game would continue for days. Sophomore Sydney Linnick (Highlands Ranch. Colo.) whipped a wrist shot from the right slot to the far post, but Flagg made a blocker save and the puck trickled across to the left half boards. Nagel collected and connected with Linnick at the blue line. Linnick carried the puck towards the goal. As no defenders came to challenge, she continue to skate in before firing a wrist shot high to the glove side. Flagg reached out to make the save but the puck deflected off her glove and trickled into the net to end the instant classic.
The home crowd erupted as Linnick was tackled by teammates, fatigue no longer an issue as a wave of adrenaline rushed through the arena. The best author couldn't have scripted a more perfect ending to the program's first playoff win. Panther Nation expects it to be the first of many.
PSU Athletics Top Ten Moments of 2017-18
No. 3 – Coming Aug. 20
No. 4 – Women's ice hockey tops UNE in OT for first-ever playoff win
No. 10 – Panther Park renamed Parish Field
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