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.
"That was a resilient effort by our team, and there were plenty of ebbs and flows for both sides tonight," said Saints' head coach Chris Wells, whose team beat Quinnipiac for the first time this season. "It was pretty much the game we expected and we expect more of the same tomorrow."
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. The Scarlet and Brown erupted on to the ice to celebrate the victory, as it is the second consecutive year that St. Lawrence has won game one in overtime. St. Lawrence defeated Dartmouth in the extra period en route to their title run last season.
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.
St. Lawrence had several close calls in regulation as well, as captain Kelly Sabatine rattled the crossbar in the third, and nearly converted on a two-on-one try with fellow senior Michelle Ng. However, Vigilanti was sound in front, controlling rebounds and covering pucks before the Saints were able to pounce.
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 tomorrow, Saturday, March 2 at 4:00pm.