WINCHENDON, Mass. (February 11, 2017) – It was just the third goal of her senior season, and she scored it on Senior Night. More impressive still, it came in the third period and would stand as the game-winning goal in the final regular-season home game for her and her eight fellow seniors. It was a storybook moment on Friday night at the Jason Ritchie Ice Arena for senior forward Nina Danforth (Stratford, Conn.), who swatted home a rebound 5:28 into the third period to break a 3-3 tie and lift the Franklin Pierce University women's ice hockey team to a 4-3 victory over visiting Castleton. Fellow senior forwards Michelle Holmes (Goffstown, N.H.) (1-1-2) and Lanie Matsumoto (Fort Collins, Colo.) (0-2-2) had two points each for the Ravens in the New England Hockey Conference contest.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 17-5-1 (12-4-0 NEHC), while Castleton falls to 7-13-4 (6-8-2 NEHC).
It will be a quick turnaround for the Ravens, who had both Senior Night festivities and a reception for families and friends after the 8 p.m. game concluded. Franklin Pierce will wrap up the regular season on Saturday at 2:05 p.m., when they visit NEHC second-place Holy Cross at Hart Recreation Center in Worcester, Mass.
In what would turn out to be a back-and-forth contest on Friday night, Castleton provided the first period's only goal, just past the midpoint of the frame. Franklin Pierce senior defenseman Katie Flynn (Sandwich, Mass.) attempted to clear the puck out of her own zone, along the boards on the offensive right-wing side. Her clearance was picked off at the blue line by Castleton junior forward Hannah Rose, who made a move around a defender, made her way to the hashmarks at the right side of the slot and fired a shot. Her initial shot was saved, but Rose tracked down her own rebound and put it away at the left post at the 10:44 mark for her 10th goal of the season.
Franklin Pierce kicked off a wild second period by tying the game at 1-1 at the 4:52 mark. Freshman defenseman Katie Neuburger (Fayetteville, N.Y.) took a long slap shot from the right point, but did not get all of it, sending a low, slow shot towards the goal. Either the misfire, or the traffic between her and the shot, appeared to fool Castleton sophomore goaltender Rylie Wills, as she could not get her right pad to the puck, which slipped inside the left post for Neuburger's second goal of the campaign. Matsumoto and freshman forward Kelsey Holmes (Warwick, R.I.) picked up the assists on the play.
Castleton reclaimed the lead at the 9:58 mark, courtesy of a defensive breakdown by the Ravens in the neutral zone. It led to a 2-on-1 into the offensive end for the Spartans, led by sophomore forward Jocelyn Forrest, who carried the puck forward on the right-wing side. Forrest took the shot herself, from the middle of the right circle, and snapped the puck into the top-right corner, over the glove hand of Franklin Pierce senior goaltender Shannon O'Neil (Tewksbury, Mass.). Freshman forward Bre Babiarz and senior defenseman Sabrina Hosner provided the assists on Forrest's 10th goal of the season.
Franklin Pierce used a pair of goals in quick succession, by the same line, to surge to a 3-2 lead. First, the whole line got in on a goal to make it 2-2 at the 13:12 mark. Junior forward Alex Brolsma (Bloomington, Minn.) dug the puck out along the right-wing half-wall and sent it to the front of the net for freshman forward Meg Gilbride (Braintree, Mass.). Gilbride put a shot on net, which was turned aside by Wills, but the puck fell back to the right-wing side. Michelle Holmes was waiting by the right post and salted away her 15th goal of the season from there.
Just 15 seconds later, at 13:27, the Ravens took their first lead of the night, with the whole line factoring in again. With the help of Michelle Holmes, Brolsma again dug the puck out on the right-wing half-wall, and this time put a shot on net from the right circle. Wills again made the initial save, but again left a rebound on the right side. Brolsma put the puck behind Wills on the rebound, but had no angle, as the attempt slid through the crease untouched. Gilbride was on the far side and ultimately chipped the puck back towards the net as Brolsma circled behind the net. Brolsma then corralled the loose puck and stuffed it home at the left post for her 15th goal of the season.
In the final minute of the middle stanza, Castleton tied the game at 3-3, immediately off a faceoff in the right-wing circle. Sophomore forward Aimee Briand won the draw straight back behind her. Cutting off the right halfboards, Rose collected the puck and quickly snapped a wrist shot home for her second goal of the season at the 19:20 mark.
Franklin Pierce would pick up the only goal of the third period, courtesy of Danforth's timely tally at 5:28, to pick up the 4-3 victory. Kelsey Holmes crashed to a Castleton defender behind the net and forced a turnover, with the puck eventually working free to Matsumoto low in the right circle. Matsumoto put the puck towards the net, with Wills making a save, but the rebound stayed in front of the crease. Danforth was there to brush home the second chance for her third goal of the season, which put the Ravens ahead to stay.
O'Neil (14-4-1) finished with 21 saves against 24 shots on goal to pick up the win between the pipes for Franklin Pierce. Wills (3-4-1) piled up 42 saves against 46 shots, but was stuck with the loss in the crease for Castleton.
For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu). Also be sure to follow the Ravens through the Department of Athletics' official Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens), its YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/franklinpiercesports) and its Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/FPUathletics). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce women's ice hockey apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' online store (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store).