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Women’s hockey competes at NCAA Tournament

By Andrew Scarpaci, Sports Editor

On Saturday, March 4, Women’s Hockey won the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance (NEWHA) for the third time in their program’s four-year history, defeating St.Anselm 2-0.

Sarah Rourke and Carrigan Umperville both had goals for the Sharks in the victory, and Goalie Tindra Holm made 18 saves in the shutout.

This matchup was set up with a 2-1 overtime thriller against Franklin Pierce the previous Wednesday, with Mikayla Lantto scoring the game-winning goal.

Photos courtesy of Athletics

With this victory, LIU earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. The Sharks are also the first school to represent the NEWHA in the National Championship.

Lantto started her collegiate hockey career at Penn State, where she played her first three seasons before transferring to LIU heading into this year. In an interview with WCWP, Lantto discussed her arrival to the Sharks.

“I actually knew about LIU pretty early on in my recruiting process when they announced the team, but ultimately was already decided on going to Penn State, but my teammate at the time at Belle Tire, Abby Latorella, committed here. When I decided to make a change to LIU, I had a lot of friends on the team, which is really nice just when you’re trying to figure out what it’s like and what kind of situation it’s going to be, so that was nice,” she said. “I chose LIU because I liked how new of a program it was and how much I could be a part of making history with the other girls, and I feel like we’ve already done that so far this year.”

This is also the first year for the team’s Head Coach Kelly Nash. Lantto felt this was a great chance for her to make her presence known under fresh leadership.

“I was honestly really excited for a new coaching staff. I thought it was a good opportunity to prove myself to them without any presumptions, and I think the same with other girls. Whatever position we were in last year didn’t have to be the case this year, and I’m the type of player that works really hard and likes competing,” she said. “That helped me throughout the year getting a spot in the lineup and just connecting with my linemates to help me there.”

This was by far Lantto’s most productive season offensively, scoring 10 goals and 18 points. Lantto credits her linemates Maggie Culp and Sarah Rourke for her success playing on the first line.

“I just tried to stay as consistent as possible. I’ve been with them for a while now, but I think we finally found our groove, and we worked well as a line because all of us dominate down low and create havoc in the offensive zone, and we clicked,” Lantto said.

In the semifinal game, there was one play where it looked like Lantto scored early on, but it was called off, and led to a scary moment where Lantto got off the ice slowly.

“It was weird because I watched the puck go in, and then I tried putting my arms up to celebrate and kind of hit the ice pretty hard, but luckily it was just a cramp,” she said. “It just made my line hungrier to go out there and get another one.”

Lantto reacts to her moment when she got the overtime goal 40 seconds in, sending her team to the NEWHA Championship.

“Culp couldn’t have put it in a better spot for me, so I was really happy I could put that one away for us,” she said. “We were all just really excited to be moving on to the championship game, and I’m grateful I could be a part of that with the first goal not counting.”

LIU went on to face the #6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the regional at Colgate University, where they ultimately lost 9-1.

The Sharks were led this season by Paula Bergstrom, Tindra Holm, and Jeanie Wallner, who were all named All-NEWHA First Team, and Carrigan Umperville, who made All-NEWHA Second Team. Bergstrom was also named NEWHA Defensive player of the year, while Holm was named NEWHA Goalie of the Year.

Lantto gives credit for much of the success of this team to Holm, who consistently keeps the Sharks in every game they play as a stable in goal.

“Tindra is a beast. It’s really important to have good goaltending, and so upfront, we need to put the puck in the net for her because she always does her job at the back end, and so we’re really excited to have her,” she said.

Despite the outcome, Lantto was excited to be a part of history in being on the Sharks’ first team to ever compete in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m really grateful I was even given the opportunity to come to this team. It’s been so much fun playing with players that compete and just want to win and have fun, and everyone has the same goals in mind,” she said. “Everyone is super supportive of one another, and our coaches are amazing. Our staff go above and beyond for us, so it really is a great environment to be in and a great team to make history with.”

Wisconsin went on to win the National Championship. They defeated Colgate in the Regional 4-2 to send them to the Frozen 4, where they ultimately defeated Minnesota 3-2 in overtime, and then #1 ranked Ohio State 1-0, making this their seventh national title.

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