The Wayne State women's hockey team's season came to an abrupt end on Thursday night, as the Warriors (14-16-5) were defeated in overtime by the Niagara Purple Eagles (11-20-4), 4-3, in the semifinals of the College Hockey America Tournament at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Prior to Thursday, Wayne State had never scored a goal in its CHA playoff history. The Warriors would score three in this game, all of which came on power plays, as they went 3-for-6 with 11 shots overall with a skater advantage.
The first period was scoreless, despite a 12-4 advantage in shots on goal for the Warriors.
Lindsay DiPietro got the Warriors on the board with her 14th goal of the season at 11:20 of the second period. DiPietro won a faceoff in the offensive zone and sent the puck back to senior defenseman Peyton Patterson. Patterson fired a shot which was tipped past NU goaltender Allison Rutledge by DiPietro, who by then was positioned between the circles.
Niagara's Erin Toth knotted the score at one at the 15:52 mark with her second goal of the season. Toth sent a wrist shot from just inside the blue line through heavy traffic in on Warrior goaltender Tiffany Thompson.
The Warriors would score the final goal of the period, however, at 17:37 when Kristy Leng, who was behind and to the right of the Niagara net, bounced the puck off an NU skater near the post and past Rutledge, giving Wayne State a 2-1 lead. Laura Monk (pictured) and Sarah Campbell were credited with the helpers.
Shots on goal were 25-8 through two periods in favor of Wayne State, who had never lost (10-0-4) during the 2005-06 regular season when leading after two periods.
Wayne State increased its lead to 3-1 when Sam Poyton scored her 29th of the season at 12:20 of the third period. DiPietro and Melissa Boal set up Poyton in front of Rutledge, and she successfully scrambled to get the puck away from the Niagara defenders and into the net.
Poyton's 29 goals tie the CHA single-season record, set last year by Ashley Riggs of Niagara.
The Purple Eagles called a timeout at the 17:25 mark, and came out with Rutledge on the bench in favor of an extra skater. The move was effective, as Melanie Mills scored 11 seconds later to close the gap to 3-2. Toth, who fed the centering pass to Mills, and Chelsea Donovan earned assists on the play.
Rutledge briefly returned to the ice, only to again be pulled for an extra attacker with 1:33 remaining. Six seconds later, Donovan tied the game with her 10th goal of the season, deflecting the puck in past Thompson on the left side. Candace Boyles and Lisa Agozzino assisted on the goal, and the game headed to overtime.
The Warriors managed five shots on goal in the extra period, but the Purple Eagles made their only shot on goal in overtime count. Meagan Smith and Mills crashed the net, and Smith wound up with a loose puck on the left post and put it in at the 3:01 mark, sending Niagara to Sunday's championship game against the Mercyhurst Lakers, to be broadcast on CSTV at 11:05 a.m.
Thompson finished with 14 saves in the game, while Rutledge stopped 37 of WSU's shots for her 11th win of the season.
Wayne State's 2005-06 campaign ends with a 14-16-5 record overall, having finished the regular season with a 6-4-2 conference record, its best in school history.
Photo by Mark Hicks/WestSide Photo.