NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The third-seeded Castleton University women's hockey team came up short on Saturday afternoon, falling to in-state rival and No. 1 seed Norwich University—the No. 6/8 team in the nation—in the New England Hockey Conference Championship by a final score of 6-0 at Kreitzberg Arena.
The Spartans conclude the season with an 11-14-3 record overall after making their first conference finals appearance since the 2014-15 season. Norwich advances to the NCAA Division III Championships with the NEHC's automatic bid and a 21-5-2 record.
The Cadets controlled the pace of play from the opening puck drop, as Norwich outshot Castleton by a wide margin, 57-6. The two sides split face-offs 29-23 in favor of Norwich, while Castleton was hit with four penalties for eight minutes and Norwich committed just one penalty for two minutes on the day. The Cadets converted on 1-of-4 power-play opportunities, while Castleton was 0-for-1 on its lone power-play opportunity.
Rylie Wills was solid in net for the Spartans despite the final score, stopping 51 shots—the third-highest single-game total of her career—in her final career contest. She turned away all 15 shots she faced in the opening period before stopping 16 shots in the second period and 20 in the third. Aimee Briand added two shots on goal for Castleton, as did Jade Remillard. Wills and Briand were named to the All-Tournament Team for their efforts throughout the NEHC postseason.
Amanda Conway scored a pair of goals for the Cadets, though Samantha Benoit led the way with four points on the day from four assists. Adrieana Rossini had a goal and two helpers for the Cadets, while Robyn Foley, Bryn Labbe and Maddi Blauth added the remaining goals for Norwich. Sophie McGovern also had a two-point game with a pair of assists.
Castleton had the game's first scoring opportunity, as Briand forced a turnover in the offensive zone and skated it up to the left hash marks before letting go a wrist shot that missed just wide of the near corner. Norwich answered with a good look of its own, but Wills stuffed a back-handed shot from the slot to keep the game scoreless less than five minutes into play.
Castleton's best scoring chance of the period came with just 3:30 to play, when the Spartans had multiple shots from the slot blocked away by the Cadets. After a Castleton power play came up empty, the two sides went into the locker room scoreless, 0-0.
The second period was fruitful for Norwich, as their heavy shot advantage finally paid off. After outshooting Castleton 15-2 in the opening period, Norwich cracked the scoring column midway through the frame with a power-play goal by Foley, assisted by Labbe and Rossini.
With time winding down in the second period, Norwich scored again as Labbe doubled the Cadet lead to 2-0 on assists from Rossini and Benoit with just 2:28 to play. The lead grew again just 19 seconds later when Blauth potted the Cadets' third goal of the period to send top-seeded and nationally-ranked Norwich to the third period with a three-goal cushion.
The Cadets added a fourth goal with just more than eight minutes left of the clock when Rossini notched a goal of her own to pair with her two assists, scoring unassisted to push the lead to 4-0. For the second time on the evening Norwich followed up with another quick goal, scoring just 26 seconds later to make it a 5-0 game. Conway was yet to be done, adding a final goal in the contest with just 57 seconds remaining to give the contest its final score of 6-0.