The Wayne State women hadn't recorded a win in six contests, and visiting Rensselaer (13-3-2) hadn't lost a game since Nov. 19. But the Warriors (8-12-4) defied expectation and swept the Engineers with a 2-1 win on Friday and a 4-2 victory on Saturday.
The Warriors got out to an early lead on Friday. Offensive powerhouse Melissa Boal sent a long pass to Kristy Leng (pictured) who lit the lamp with a top-shelf shot. The team maintained the lead going into the first intermission, thanks in large part to goalie Tiffany Thompson, who stopped all nine RPI shots and stayed steady when the Warriors were down by two skaters.
The Engineers came out strong in the second, but Thompson's tenacity was again showcased when she stopped an RPI breakaway. The tide then turned in Wayne's favor again, and Laura Monk set up Sam Poyton for Poyton's 16th goal of the season, a new school record. Lindsay DiPietro looked to make it 3-0 a few minutes later on a clean breakaway, but was stopped by RPI goaltender Rosina Schiff.
DiPietro was sent to the box midway through the third period for tripping, and RPI capitalized on the opportunity to break Thompson's shutout. However, despite gaining another power play and pulling Schiff with a minute remaining, RPI could not even the score before the final whistle.
Thompson finished with 20 saves.
"That win was a huge confidence boost for us," said WSU head coach Jim Fetter. "Our last month or so, we've played well against some top five teams, but didn't win any of them. This win is a step forward for us."
Valery Turcotte started in net for the Warriors on Saturday. Despite being named the starter at the beginning of the season, Thompson's performances cannot be ignored, resulting in a constant challenging decision for Fetter.
"Without a doubt, it's hard (to decide who starts)," he said. "But we told them from day one, don't make our job easy. And they've made it tough for us with the way they've played the past few games."
Turcotte didn't make the decision any easier on Saturday, recording a win of her own and making 16 saves.
One of the two shots she didn't stop came at 12:37 of the first when Keri Rabatin knocked in a rebound. But Turcotte wasn't rattled and made one of her strongest saves moments later. The Warriors offense helped her out by dominating the Engineers for much of the period, outshooting them 10-5.
Their work paid off in the second period. After several good Warrior shots, blueliner Tina Vanderhoeven sent a pass to Leng, who set up Boal for her tenth goal of the season. On a power play a few minutes later, it was Boal who assisted, sending a cross-ice pass to Poyton to take the lead at 7:33 of the second. Danielle Wilson was also credited with an assist.
The Warriors' scoring flurry continued. Boal earned her second goal of the game, getting some help from Leng and DiPietro during a scramble in front of the net, and knocked it in to put the Warriors ahead by two.
Leng, who had only two points on the season coming into the weekend, earned her third assist at 15:45. She took a pass from Rachel Benninger and set up Monk for a breakaway that beat RPI netminder Ashley Mayr.
The Engineers tried to mount a comeback in the final period, outshooting the Warriors 10-2. A long shot from Melanie Guillemette beat Turcotte to bring the Engineers within two at 10:35 of the third period. The Engineers appeared in position to narrow the gap late in the period when the Warriors were down by two players. It didn't help that key defensemen Vanderhoeven and Peyton Patterson were in the box, but a strong penalty kill staved off RPI. The best scoring chance of the period came in the final seconds, when Boal attempted to score on the empty net. However, her attempt at breakaway glory was foiled by an RPI trip and the game closed out with the Warriors on the power play.
For Fetter, the offensive energy was the most critical factor in the series
"We've been in situations where we haven't been able to score any goals," Fetter said. "Today we got some."
Next weekend, the Warriors face a struggling Robert Morris team on the road. Fetter spoke on the necessity of his team staying in top form.
"We have Robert Morris this weekend and then a week off, so it's important not to get into any bad habits this weekend."