Women’s Hockey: St. Mike’s Tops Sacred Heart in NEHC Tournament

Courtesy St. Michael’s Sports Information

SHELTON, Conn. – The fifth-seeded Saint Michael’s College women’s ice hockey team scored the final four goals to upset No. 4 Sacred Heart University, 5-2, during a New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Open Tournament play-in game on Wednesday evening at the Sports Center of Connecticut. The Purple Knights improved to 6-17-2 while ending the season for the Division I Pioneers, who are 12-13-2.


Behind the second postseason victory in program history, the Purple and Gold advanced to a semifinal contest against No. 1 College of the Holy Cross on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Saint Anselm College. Saint Michael’s is now guaranteed a game on Sunday, as well, either in the 1 p.m. consolation game or the 4 p.m. title contest.


Junior Erin Dwyer (Weymouth, Mass./Archbishop Williams) scored twice for the Purple Knights, while sophomore Ashley Dineen (Somers, N.Y./Canterbury School) turned in a goal and an assist. Senior Amanda Kempainen (Chazy, N.Y./Chazy Flyers U19) and junior Carolyn Avery (Lexington, Mass./Lexington) also scored, classmate Abby Burke (Bedford, Mass./The Rivers School) made 28 saves, and senior Kaly Spilhaus (Bourne, Mass./Groton School) won a team-best eight faceoffs.


During the game, Dwyer passed Jess Tourville ’09 (20) to take over seventh in school history in career goals (21) while becoming the sixth Purple Knight ever with 20 goals and 20 assists for a career. Kempainen’s 20th career goal tied her with Tourville for eighth in school annals, while senior Emily Loebs (Acton, Mass./Minuteman Lady Flames) became the 10th player in school annals to appear in 100 career games.


Senior Heather Daley and first-year Haley Payne both posted a goal and an assist for Sacred Heart, and senior Nicole Magee made 23 saves.


Saint Michael’s downed Sacred Heart for just the third time in 26 all-time meetings, and for the second time in nine postseason match-ups. The Purple Knights, who had lost a 5-0 contest to the Pioneers as recently as Jan. 9, had won only once previously in postseason play, downing Sacred Heart, 9-2, on Feb. 27, 2011, during the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Open Tournament third-place game. Saint Michael’s also sprung the upset as the lower seed, and tonight’s offensive output was its second-highest ever in the postseason behind that game. The Purple Knights had been 0-6-2 against the Pioneers since that meeting.


In a 2-2 game, Burke registered four stops in the opening two minutes of the third period before Sacred Heart was awarded a power play at 3:44. After Burke made a save of senior Casey Stathopoulos at one end, Dwyer controlled a turnover later in the power play and went in on a 1-of-1 at the other end, being stopped on her first shot by Magee before her wraparound on the rebound found the back of the net at 4:36. It was her first career short-handed marker. Dwyer blocked an ensuing shot before having a try of her own blocked to finish off the power play. The visitors later went a woman up thanks to a Pioneer penalty at 11:23, but Magee denied the lone shot to keep her team within one. Just 29 seconds after the advantage ended, Kempainen padded the lead during a 2-on-2 rush.


In the three minutes immediately following Kempainen’s insurance tally, Burke picked up two more saves while Dineen and junior Lauren Cuculino (Glen Mills, Pa./Quakers) blocked shots, and Sacred Heart pulled Magee with exactly two minutes left in favor of an extra skater. However, the Pioneers never got a shot away, and Dineen iced the victory with an empty-net marker with 49 seconds remaining.


The Purple Knights pulled ahead 4:44 after the opening faceoff, as Dwyer scored off of junior Tori Dinger’s (Norwell, Mass./Norwell) assist. After Saint Michael’s held a 6-3 advantage in shots during the opening nine minutes, the Pioneers had a 9-3 lead over the remainder of the period, scoring twice in a 5:27 span. Daley knotted the contest at 11:39 off a Payne assist, and Payne followed at the 17:06 mark, with Daley providing the primary helper. With Sacred Heart on a late power play that stretched into the second period, Burke made three saves during the woman advantage, while Loebs blocked a shot.


Burke’s four stops in the opening three-plus minutes of the second period was followed by Spilhaus being denied around the four-minute mark. The Purple Knights gained a pair of power plays soon thereafter, with Sacred Heart killing the first one, as only junior Kayla Kee (Newton, Mass./Newton South) sent a shot on net. Just 55 seconds after the initial power play ended, Saint Michael’s again went a woman up, and Avery sent home the rebound of Cuculino’s shot at 8:27 to even the score at two. Dineen also assisted. The Pioneers went on a power play 12:02 into the stanza, but Burke stopped the only two shots on net while another three were sent wide of the target. Kee’s shot in the final minute was turned away by Magee, and the teams headed into the second intermission tied.