NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Castleton held the fourth-ranked Norwich Cadets scoreless for the final 36:14 of regulation, but couldn't find the back of the net, as the Cadets claimed their fourth consecutive ECAC East Playoff Championship and sixth in the last seven years with a 1-0 victory on Sunday afternoon at Kreitzberg Arena.
The Spartans were outshot in the contest 28-25 and failed to capitalize any of its three power play opportunities, as the squad finished the season with a 14-12-2 record overall. Norwich, meanwhile, improved to 21-4-3 overall and qualifies for the NCAA Tournament with the victory.
Castleton had the first clear scoring opportunity of the contest less than two minutes into the game when Ashley Pelkey fired a wrister from inside the crease through traffic. However, the Cadets' Celeste Robert was able to make an impressive pad save to maintain the scoreless affair.
Just before the halfway mark in the frame, it seemed that the two-time defending champions were destined to take the lead after Muranda Toews deked past Jess Cameron and delivered a shot, but her back-handed effort ricocheted off the pipe and was cleared from play.
The Spartans had another quality chance to take the lead with just over with just over five minutes remaining in the first. After Rachel Bombardier's shot from the point was pushed aside, Brianna Keats gathered the rebound and took a shot near the far post that seemed to be going in, but Robert made a post-to-post save to deny the effort and keep the game on level terms.
The Cadets came out firing in the second period, and just 3:46 into the frame, they found the back of the net to take the first lead of the afternoon. On a power play opportunity, Madison Gallagher took a shot from the near point that deflected off of Vanessa Champagne and past Cameron to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
Norwich continued to push for the remaining 16:14 of the middle frame in hopes of picking up a second goal, as the team controlled possession and forced Cameron to make 14 saves in that period alone. The Spartans, however, were able to withstand the pressure and head into the second intermission with just a one-goal deficit.
After failing to capitalize on a power play midway through the final stanza and struggling to create threatening plays throughout the frame, Castleton had one final chance to even the game in the waning seconds of the contest after a scrum ensued in front of the Cadets net. However, the hosts were able to stave off multiple attempts en route to securing its second straight victory over the Spartans in the championship game with a 1-0 victory.
In net, Jess Cameron turned in an outstanding performance after getting her first start in just over two weeks. The junior netminder stopped 27 of the 28 shots that she faced with a .964 save percentage, as she ended the season with a 5-7-1 record in the losing effort. Robert, meanwhile, produced 25 saves to capture her 13th shutout of the year.
Hannah Rose and Molly Howard were selected to the ECAC East All-Tournament Team for their stellar play throughout the conference tournament. In three games, Rose contributed one goal with two assists, while Howard netted a pair of goals for Castleton. Round out the all-tournament squad was Norwich's Kaycie Anderson, Taylor Cross and Robert. Vanessa Champagne, meanwhile, was named MVP of the tournament after recording two goals and one assists, including today's game winner.