Photo Caption: Norwich senior forward Julie Fortier reacts to scoring the game-winning goal in Friday night's 4-3 overtime win over Gustavus Adolphus in the NCAA Semifinals at Rochester Institute of Technology's Frank Ritter Arena. (Jordan Silverman/Norwich University)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Senior forward Julie Fortier scored 4:07 into overtime to lift the Norwich women's ice hockey team to a 4-3 win over Gustavus Adolphus in the NCAA Semifinals on Friday night, as well as a berth in its third straight NCAA Division III National Championship game.
Fortier (Saint-Malachie, Quebec) redirected an initial shot by Sarianne Lynn (Wethersfield, Conn.) over the shoulder of Gustavus Adolphus goalie Danielle Justice to set up a rematch with top-ranked Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for the second consecutive year. Norwich beat RIT 5-2 in last year's title game to claim its first national championship in only the program's fourth season at the varsity level.
The goal was Fortier's nation-leading 31st tally of the year and came on the heels of her being named the 2012 Laura Hurd Award (National D-III Player of the Year) winner at last night's NCAA Division III Women's ice Hockey Championship banquet.
Friday night's game marked the second straight year that Norwich and Gustavus Adolphus had met in the national semifinals. Although both games resulted in one-goal victories for Norwich, they couldn't have been more different. Last year, Norwich led 5-1 going into the third period and withstood a ferocious third period comeback by the Gusties to hold on for a 5-4 win. This year's game was an even back and forth affair that never saw a team lead by more than a goal.
Norwich (27-2-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead at the 6:34 mark of the first period when Meghan Papagno (Wakefield, Mass.) poked home a rebound into a wide open net after Justice made an initial save on Haley Gibson's (Richmond, Ontario) shot. Lynn picked up the second assist on the goal after springing Gibson and Papagno on a mini 2-on-1 with a pass from the side boards.
Gustavus Adolphus (24-3-2) carried the play for the rest of the period and eventually leveled the score at the 14:42 mark of the first when Melissa Doyle sniped a shot over the glove of Norwich goalie Kelly Fisk (Hannibal, N.Y) off an assist from Meagan Wanecke.
Doyle struck again for Gustavus Adolphus on nearly an exact replica of her first goal at the 6:46 mark of the second period when she once again beat Fisk over the glove and tucked a shot just underneath the cross bar to give the Gusties a 2-1 lead.
Jillayne DeBus (Howell, Mich.) tied the game back up at two just under five minutes later with her 22nd goal of the season and sixth of the postseason. Sophomore forward Renee Lortie (Cornwall, Ontario) took a pass from Tyne Gove (Berwick, Ontario) and wheeled through the slot before finding DeBus off to her left. DeBus corralled the pass from Lortie, picked her spot and wristed the puck past Justice's glove as she was sliding across the crease.
Freshman forward Kaycie Anderson (Maple Plain, Minn.) put Norwich back on top 5:37 into the third period when she wristed a shot top shelf past Justice's blocker off assists from Fortier and senior team captain Melissa Rundlett (Saco, Maine).
However, as was the norm in the game, the lead didn't last long as Gustavus Adolphus' Lindsey Hjelm tied the game back up at three by beating Fisk with a low shot to the right post with a defender draped all over her back in the middle of the slot.
Norwich was called for two penalties in the final 10 minutes of regulation, including one that carried over into the first 1:57 of overtime, but the Cadets withstood the Gustavus pressure to keep the game tied and set up Fortier's overtime heroics.
Fisk made 28 saves for Norwich to become the first goaltender in Norwich women's hockey history to record 20 wins in a single season. She is now 20-1-0 on the season.
Justice made 28 saves as well for Gustavus Adolphus and was saddled with her first loss of the season to close her outstanding four-year career with an 18-1-2 record in her senior season.
Fortier has now scored four goals and added three more assists for seven points in three Frozen Four games at RIT's Frank Ritter Memorial Arena dating back to last year's two wins.
Norwich and RIT have met once already this season with RIT handing the Cadets a 4-1 loss on Oct. 29 at Kreitzberg Arena for its first of two losses on the season. The Tigers own a 2-1 lead in the all-time series between the schools with RIT winning in the East/West Hockey Classic each of the last two years and Norwich claiming last year's national championship on RIT's home ice.
Saturday's finale will be a fitting cap to the 2011-12 NCAA Division III women's hockey season with the two teams that have been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 the entire season in the USCHO.com and d3hockey.com polls squaring off for all the marbles one more time.
The Cadets will not only be looking to secure back-to-back national championships, they'll also be looking to prevent RIT from winning its first national championship in program history as well. In the 10-year history of the NCAA holding a Division III women's ice hockey championship a team that has won the title has always repeated at least once the following season. NU will look to keep that streak alive as well.
Norwich Senior defenseman Sarianne Lynn looks to make a pass along the boards during Friday night's NCAA semifinal against Gustavus Adolphus at RIT's Frank Ritter Arena in Rochester, N.Y. The Cadets won 4-3 in overtime. (Jordan Silverman/Norwich University)
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