Women's team wins nationals
Four short years ago, three young women by the names of Natalie Dillon, Jess Wood and Liz Wardlow proposed that a women's hockey team be incepted. Three full seasons later, the Miami University RedHawks have captured the pinnacle of Division I club hockey achievement - a National Championship.
"It's surreal," head coach Scott Hicks said a day after his team won it all over the University of Massachusetts (UMass), 3-1. "It's something we've always said was one of our goals. To tell the girls is one thing, it's another to do it. It's magical. To send our seniors off this way, it makes you want to do it again."
Miami jumped out to a first period lead after applying constant pressure and netted its first goal of the game just 11:05 into the opening period. Freshman left winger Cassidy Guthrie was credited with the initial strike after transitioning through the neutral zone on her on and beating UMass netminder Chelsea Corell with a low wrister. The RedHawks were not through, and just two minutes and change later, freshman center Jordan Hanson buried a laser top shelf on the blocker side, where grandma hides the thin mints. Miami entered the second frame with a 2-0 lead.
"We came out flying," senior goaltender Dana Lovin said. "I think it carried over from the semi-finals against Liberty, but we just played so well and the way our team came together was just fantastic to see. Everybody had the eyes set on that one goal to win that championship."
UMass battled back into the game with a shorthanded goal that found its way past Lovin, but that was the only goal she would surrender. Going back on the offensive, Miami found point production from its freshmen yet again and Kaley Mooney buried any hope of a comeback. The third period was all Miami and when the dust settled, they walked away champions.
An outpouring of support and love both online and in person was a large part of the success according to Hicks, and he couldn't stress enough what it meant to him and his team.
"To feel all the support they got was pretty special," Hicks said. "From Twitter, to Hawk Talk, to emails from Tommy Wingels and then current [Miami] varsity players, it was great to bring joy to the university."
The RedHawks finished the year as champions with a 30-2-3 record and won the Central Collegiate Women's Hockey Association regular season and tournament titles en route. A 127-goal differential - and yes, that's not a typo - shows just how dominant these women were as they maintained the No. 1 ranking for most of the year.
Lovin was named Second Team All-American and All-Tournament, and maintained a .94 save percentage and 1.32 goals-against average to go along with a 20-2-3 record. The 10-hour bus ride back to Oxford did little to wane the excitement, and according to Hicks, who himself still can't quite believe it, the ecstasy of winning it all might take a while to wear off. Lovin could not agree more.
"People slept," Lovin said. "But for the first five hours, people were up and excited, and everyone was pumped up ... Wow. It still feels surreal. I can't explain it."
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