Captain Carly Mercer (Exeter, ONT) continued her hot hand, as the junior forward connected for the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the 5th-ranked Clarkson University Women’s Hockey team past Rensselaer 3-2 in Game 1 of an ECAC Hockey Quarterfinal Series at Cheel Arena on Friday night.
The number two seed in the eight-team ECAC Hockey playoffs, the Golden Knights improve their record to 27-8 and will host the seventh-seeded Engineers (10-21-4) in Game 2 of the best-of-three game series on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.
Mercer, who entered postseason play on a three-game goal-scoring streak, tallied her 17th goal of the season and sixth game-winning score of the year at 8:51 of sudden-victory overtime. Mercer redirected a shot in front from classmate Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT) that just edged over the goal line for the deciding goal. The ECAC’s leading rookie scorer, freshman defenseman Erin Ambrose (Keswick, ONT) also helped to set up the goal with her school-record 29th assist of the season.
Clarkson, which never trailed in the game, outshot Rensselaer 41-23. The Engineers enjoyed the better of the play on specialty teams, going 1-of-2 on the power play while killing off all five of the Knights’ man-advantage chances.
The Golden Knights outshot Rensselaer by a 2-to-1 margin (12-6) in the first period, but had to settle for a 1-1 tie through the opening 20 minutes. Clarkson struck first when junior Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE) fired in her eighth goal of the season on a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle at 3:42 after taking a pass out of the corner by classmate Shelby Nisbet (Wiseton, SASK). Junior Brittany Styner (Calgary, ALB) also assisted.
The Engineers, who had limited opportunities in the period, converted on the lone power play in the stanza to knot the game at 1-1. Freshman Alexa Gruschow knocked in a pass from junior Jordan Smelker at the top of the crease just 39 second into the man-advantage at 10:53 for her 13th goal of the season. Freshman Jenn Godin started the scoring play with an assist from the point.
With two power-play opportunities in the second frame, Clarkson outshot Rensselaer 13-10, but the Engineers’ penalty-kill was up to the task and held the Knights off the scoreboard in the period to keep it a 1-1 game through 40 minutes.
The Knights continued to control play in the third period with a 10-4 shot margin, and finally went ahead midway through the period. Clarkson’s leading scorer, Rattray took a pass from freshman defenseman Renata Fast (Burlington, ONT) and skated in on partial breakaway to score her 20th goal of the season. While being pulled down from behind Rattray was able to get a shot off from the bottom of the circle, which found its way through the pads of Rensselaer sophomore goaltender Kelly O’Brien (Sussex, WI) at 11:05.
The Engineers fought back, however, and tied it 2-2, seconds after their second power play of the game ended. Senior Taylor Horton finished off assists from Gruschow and sophomore defenseman Kathryn Schilter at 16:02 for her 12th goal of the year.
Junior Erica Howe (Ottawa, ONT) posted 21 saves to record her 58th career win. O’Brien finished with 38 stops in the Engineer’s net.