Conophy, Nelson send Bears back to ECAC West Playoffs
POTSDAM, N.Y.—The SUNY Potsdam women's hockey team (10-13-2, 6-9-1 ECAC West) needed a victory over Buffalo State (6-18-1, 3-13) to return to the ECAC West Tournament and senior goaltender Jen Conophy and freshman forward Sarah Nelson came through with clutch performances. Conophy shone the brightest on Senior Day, stopping all 22 shots she faced for her second career shutout. Nelson scored the only goal the Bears needed for the win.
Potsdam looked strong early, testing Bengals junior goalie Jordan Lee. Nelson struck at the 5:14 mark, slamming home her own rebound for the decisive tally. Senior captain Katie Komsa and freshman forward Rachel Grefke recorded the assists. The teams spent much of the rest of the period on the power play or killing them. The Bears were 0-3 on the man advantage and needed a few big saves from Conophy to keep the Bengals from a shorthanded goal. Buffalo State was 0-2 on the power play. The shots were 13-12 in favor of the hosts after 20 minutes.
Potsdam had to kill of three power plays in the second period, including a 59-second five-on-three situation at the 13:09 mark. However, Buffalo State couldn't crack the Bears' defense or Conophy. The Bengals outshot Potsdam 7-3 in the second period.
There were six power plays evenly divided in the third period, but the drama built toward the last few minutes. Both teams had strong scoring opportunities, but couldn't solve Conophy or Lee. With 2:56 remaining, Bears junior forward Jessica Silveira (Brampton, Ontario/Brampton Thunder) swooped in front of the net and backhanded a shot that looked like a sure goal. Lee slid across the crease and pinned the puck between her glove and left pad to rob Silveira of an insurance tally. Potsdam was whistled for an interference penalty with 1:20 left and Buffalo State pulled Lee for an extra attacker. With less than minute left, Bengals senior forward Tara Boliard (Canton, Mich./Little Caesars) sent a pass from the right corner to the point. No one was there and puck slid the length of the ice and clanged off the Bengals' goalpost, nearly doubling the Bears' lead. Conophy made several more saves as Buffalo State swarmed the net and Potsdam was able to run out the clock.
Lee finished with 25 saves for the Bengals. Buffalo State was 0-8 on the power play and the Bears went 0-6.
The victory extends the careers of Potsdam seniors Conophy, Komsa, Brittany Westlake and Nadine Cunningham, who were honored in a pregame ceremony. The four have combined to play in 322 games for the Bears.
With the victory, Potsdam leapfrogs both Cortland and Neumann into the fifth playoff spot. The Bears will travel to fourth-seeded Utica College next Saturday, Feb. 23, for the first round of the ECAC West Playoffs. Potsdam tied Utica 1-1 on the road on Jan. 12, before falling 2-0 at Cheel on Jan. 13. The Bears have now reached the playoffs in three of their first five varsity seasons.