RUTLAND, Vt. – Backed by Rylie Wills' 45 saves and goals from three different scorers, the Castleton University women's ice hockey team earned a 3-3 overtime tie with the No. 6/4 Norwich University Cadets on Friday evening in the Pink the Rink game at Spartan Arena.
Castleton moves to 4-12-3 overall, while picking up a huge conference point with an updated 4-4-2 mark. Nationally ranked Norwich is now 14-4-2 and 11-0-1 in New England Hockey Conference action.
Killing off three power plays in the final 10 minutes of regulation and the opening minute of overtime, Castleton showed that while it would bend, it would not break and held off the free-firing Cadets.
Early on in the first period, Norwich got off to a hot start, capitalizing on a Castleton penalty. Norwich cycled the puck through its offensive zone as Samantha Benoit fired on goal. As Castleton netminder Wills made the initial save, Norwich's KC Herne crashed the net and stuck back the rebound.
Later in the first, the Spartans answered back as Aimee Briand dashed down the ice and the beat the goalie. Fueled by sharp passing from Casey Traill and Jocelyn Forrest, Briand netted her fifth score of the season.
After Norwich reclaimed the lead only moments later, Courtney Gauthier would tally the equalizer later in the second period. In the right place at the right time, Gauthier stole a pass, went one-on-one with the goalie and scored – it was her fifth of the season.
Proving tremendous resilience, the Spartans bounced back once more after the top-10 Cadets jumped out in front again just 1:07 into the final regulation period. Diving to keep the puck in front of the blue line and to capture possession, Gauthier quickly dished it to Forrest. Going back-and-forth one more time, Forrest flicked a quick shot behind the goalie's head that clanked off the far post and found the twine.
As the Spartans continued to battle and fight back, it was Wills that was the most instrumental in Castleton's ability to remain in the contest. The senior goaltender sent aside 45 shots to the tune of a .938 save percentage. Wills was especially strong in the third period and overtime, rejecting a combined 25 shots.
Off of the ice, Castleton helped raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research through its Pink the Rink festivities. Aside from general fundraising, the Spartans raffled off a limited-edition uniform as well as several gift baskets with all proceeds going to the Foley Cancer Center at the Rutland Regional Medical Center.
Women's ice hockey returns to action at 3 p.m. on Saturday as it remains home for a conference clash with the Plymouth State Panthers.
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