THE STORYLINE: No. 8/6 nationally-ranked Norwich (20-5-2, 15-0-1 NEHC) continues its quest for its ninth NEHC Championship on Saturday by hosting No. 3 seed Castleton (10-14-2, 5-9-2 NEHC) in NEHC Semifinal action at Kreitzberg Arena.
The Cadets earned the No. 1 seed for the NEHC Tournament for the ninth straight year and have backed up their home-ice advantage so far throughout the playoffs with a 3-0 win over No. 8 Salem State and then a 3-2 win over No. 7 UMass Boston.
Castleton defeated No. 6 Plymouth State 2-1 and then downed a red-hot Johnson & Wales team in the semifinals by a 4-3 score at Spartan Arena.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Tournament is on the line on Saturday. Norwich will be looking to make its 10th NCAA tournament appearance in just its 12th varsity season, while Castleton will be looking to make its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament since starting its program in 2004.
Norwich is making its 11th straight appearance in the NEHC Championship game with eight titles in that span so far, including two in a row the last two seasons. Castleton is making its third trip to the NEHC Championship and first since 2015.
The winner of the NEHC Tournament will gain an automatic bid into the 10-team NCAA Tournament that begins on Wednesday, March 6. The selection show will air on Monday, March 4 on www.ncaa.com.
THE SERIES: Saturday marks the 29th all-time meeting between Norwich and Castleton in women's ice hockey. Norwich holds a 25-1-2 lead in the all-time series with the Spartans.
Castleton beat Norwich for the first time on Jan. 16, 2016. Norwich is 1-0-1 vs. Castleton this year, winning 8-0 at home and then tying Castleton 3-3 on the road in January.
The two teams met in back-to-back years in the 2014 and 2015 NEHC Championship games at Kreitzberg Arena. Norwich won 4-0 in 2014 and then slipped by the Spartans 1-0 in 2015.
THE COACHES: Norwich is led by Mark Bolding '95, who is in his 12th season at the helm of the NU women's ice hockey program. The four-time American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Coach of the Year has compiled an impressive 265-67-22 record in his tenure as the only head coach the program has known, while leading the Cadets to two NCAA Division III National Championships (2011, 2018).
Castleton is led by first-year head coach Mike Venezia, who has guided the Spartans to an 11-13-3 record so far.
ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by the two-time NEHC Player of the Year in junior forward Amanda Conway (Methuen, Mass.), who has 27 goals and 12 assists for 39 points this season.
Senior forward Adrieana Rossini (Malden, Mass.) has nine goals and a team-leading 19 assists for 28 points and reached the 100-career-point milestone this year. Junior Sophie McGovern (Hermantown, Minn.) has 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points and is one point away from becoming the 11th member of the 100-career-point club. McGovern was named to the NEHC First Team, while Rossini earned Second Team honors.
Sophomore defenseman Samantha Benoit (Bow, N.H.) (5-18-23) and junior forward Alyssa Hulst (Scarborough, Maine) (8-14-22) round out Norwich's top-five offensive leaders. Benoit was named to the NEHC First Team, while Hulst earned Third Team honors.
Senior captain forward Bryn Labbe (Calgary, Alberta) (7-8-15) became the 10th member of the 100-career-point club earlier this season.
In goal, sophomore Emily Lambert (Riverview, Mich.) has grabbed the reins of the No. 1 goalie spot. Lambert has compiled an 13-4-1 record with a 1.38 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. Lambert became the first goalie in program history to be named the NEHC Goalie of the Year two weeks ago.
ABOUT THE SPARTANS: Castleton is led offensively by senior Aimee Brand, who has 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points and was a NEHC Third Team All-Conference selection.
Classmate Jocelyn Forrest has a team-leading 16 goals and 10 assists for 26 points and was named to the NEHC All-Conference Second Team. Sophomore Courtney Gauthier has seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points.
Senior Jade Remillard has eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points, while sophomore defenseman Casey Traill has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. Traill was named to the NEHC All-Conference Third Team.
In goal, senior Rylie Wills has a 7-7-2 record with a 2.19 goals against average and a .928 save %. Junior Alexis Kalm has a 3-6-1 record, 3.02 GAA and .893 save percentage. Wills was named to the NEHC Third Team.
By the Numbers: (national rank)
Norwich: 4.26 (7th)
Castleton: 2.19 (29th)
Norwich: 1.44 (10th)
Castleton: 2.70 (41st)
PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 8.6 minutes (32nd)
Castleton: 8.6 minutes (29th)
Norwich: 22.1 percent (12th)
Castleton: 19.7 percent (17th)
Norwich: 88.5 percent (16th)
Castleton: 79.2 percent (57th)