Women's Hockey: Norwich vs. Williams - NCAA First Round Preview

NCAA Tournament First Round Preview

THE STORYLINE: No. 9/5 nationally-ranked Norwich (21-5-2, 15-0-1 NEHC) begins its quest for its third NCAA Division III National Championship on Wednesday, March 6 when it travels to Williamstown, Mass. to take on Williams College in a NCAA Tournament First Round matchup at 7 p.m.

The Cadets won their third straight and ninth overall New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament to claim an automatic bid into the 10-team NCAA Tournament field. NU defeated Castleton 6-0 in the NEHC title game this past Saturday in front of a new Norwich women's hockey attendance record crowd of 1,284 fans.

Norwich is making its 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in just its 12th season of existence at the varsity level.

No. 6/9 nationally-ranked Williams (20-4-3) won its second New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament title in program history with a 3-2 win over Middlebury on Sunday at Lansing Chapman Rink. The Ephs will be making their third NCAA Tournament appearance with others coming in 2014 and 2003.

Tickets will only be available on the day of game when the box office opens. Prices are $6 for adults, $4 for students, $3 for senior citizens/youth and children 2 and under are free.  If you are unable to attend the game, live video will be available at www.nsnsports.colleges/williams-college

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey National Quarterfinals is on the line on Wednesday. Norwich has never played in the First Round before and will be looking to make its 10th national quarterfinal appearance. Williams will be looking to win its first-ever NCAA Tournament game, while Norwich has compiled a 13-9 record all-time in NCAA Tournament games.

The other NCAA First Round matchup features NEWHL-champion Plattsburgh State hosting Colonial Hockey Conference champion Endicott College at 5 p.m. on March 6. The winner of the Williams/Norwich game will play the winner of the Plattsburgh/Endicott game on Saturday, March 9 in a quarterfinal matchup.

Three of the quarterfinal matchups are already set with Elmira hosting Adrian, St. Thomas hosting UW-Eau Claire and Hamline University hosting UW-River Falls. The four quarterfinal winners will meet in the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship weekend on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 at the highest-remaining seed.

THE SERIES: Wednesday will mark just the third all-time meeting between Norwich and Williams in women's ice hockey. The two teams haven't played since 2010, when they skated to a 1-1 tie at Lansing-Chapman Rink in Williamstown, Mass. Norwich beat Williams 4-2 the year prior at Kreitzberg Arena. The Cadets lead the all-time series 1-0-1.

The two teams have seven common opponents this season in Middlebury, Amherst, Conn. College, Trinity, Endicott, Elmira and Castleton. Williams went 9-1-3 vs. those seven teams, while Norwich compiled a 4-5-2 record vs. those teams.

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 266-67-22 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).

Williams is led by Meghan Gillis, who is in her eighth year as the head coach of the Ephs women's hockey program. She has compiled a 96-89-20 record in her tenure at Williams. Gillis was named the NESCAC Coach of the Year for the second time in her career earlier this year.

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 29 goals and 12 assists for 41 points this season.

Senior forward Adrieana Rossini (Malden, Mass.) has 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points and reached the 100-career-point milestone this year. Junior Sophie McGovern (Hermantown, Minn.) has 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points and became the 11th member of the Norwich 100-career-point club with two assists in the NEHC title game. McGovern was named to the NEHC First Team, while Rossini earned Second Team honors.

Sophomore defenseman Samantha Benoit (Bow, N.H.) (5-22-27) leads the team in assists and was named the NEHC Tournament Most Valuable Player after dishing out four assists and recording a +5 plus-minus rating. 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) (8-9-17) 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 14-4-1 record with a 1.31 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Lambert became the first goalie in program history to be named the NEHC Goalie of the Year earlier this season and has six shutouts on the season.  

ABOUT THE EPHS: Williams is led offensively by sophomore forward Meghan Halloran, who was named the NESCAC Player of the Year after scoring 18 goals and notching 17 assists for 35 points.

Senior Annie Rush has 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points, while classmate Abby Brustad has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points. Sophomore defenseman Brynn Puppe ranks as one of the nation's top defenseman with seven goals and nine assists for 16 points.  

Junior Amanda Reisman has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, while classmate Mia Carroll has one goal and 14 assists for 15 points from the blue line as well.

In goal, freshman Chloe Heiting has emerged as one of the top goaltenders in Division III, posting a 17-2-2 record with a 1.30 goals against average and a .944 save percentage to go along with five shutouts. Heiting earned NESCAC Second Team honors along with Rush, while Halloran and Puppe were named to the first team.

By the Numbers: (national rank)

SCORING OFFENSE-
Norwich: 4.32 (6th)
Williams:  2.85 (16th)

SCORING DEFENSE-
Norwich: 1.39 (8th)
Williams:  1.52 (12th)

PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 8.3 minutes (37th)
Williams: 7.6 minutes (46th)

POWER PLAY-
Norwich: 22.2 percent (12th)
Williams: 27.6 percent (2nd)

PENALTY KILL-
Norwich: 88.7 percent (16th)
Williams: 85.4 percent (33rd)