SHELTON, Conn. – Maura Kieft scored the game-winning goal at 10:05 of overtime to give the Saint Anselm College women's hockey team a 3-2 victory over the College of the Holy Cross in the championship game of the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Open on Sunday afternoon at the Sports Center of Connecticut.
With Saint Anselm (22-2-3) on a 4-on-3 power play, Sara McNamara tipped a Martha Findley shot from the point into the path of an open Kieft in front of the net and the sophomore scored on the backhand to give the Hawks their league-best seventh NEHC Open title. Kieft's goal brought an end to the fourth overtime NEHC Open championship game between Saint Anselm and Holy Cross (22-5-0) in the last seven seasons, as the teams were meeting with the championship on the line for the seventh time in eight seasons.
Following the game, sophomore goaltender Maddie Scavotto was named the tournament's MVP and she was joined on the All-Tournament Team by junior defenseman Jackie Guy and junior forward Kaitlyn Spillane. Scavotto made a career-high 24 saves in the championship game after stopping 20-of-21 shots in the semifinal against Sacred Heart.
The appearance in the championship game was Saint Anselm's 11th in 13 seasons since the program started in 2004-05 and the win improved the Hawks to 20-5-1 all-time in the tournament. The Hawks closed the season on a 14-game unbeaten run, which is the second-longest stretch in program history. Saint Anselm also swept all three games against Holy Cross in a season for the fourth time (2004-05, 2005-06, 2013-14, 2016-17).
The victory sent the senior class of Alex Starzyk, Alison Quinn, Savanna Poole, Alison Butler, Meaghan Spurling, Martha Findley, Victoria Shea and Hannah Synnott out with a win. Starzyk, Quinn and Butler each finished their careers in the program's top-10 all-time in goals, assists and points, while Findley concluded her career with the most assists by a defenseman in program history (57). As a group, the class helped the Hawks to a record of 85-17-5 over their four seasons.
Saint Anselm outshot Holy Cross 12-4 in the opening period but the teams went to the locker room scoreless. Eight minutes in, Butler fired a shot from the top of the left circle that was saved by the pad of Tessie Salatas and the rebound just eluded Quinn on the back door. Shortly after, Salatas saved Spillane's blast from near the right dot with her leg.
Holy Cross had its best chance of the opener on a blast from Isabela Bagi at the left point but Scavotto got a piece of it to turn it away with seven minutes to go in the opener. The best chance of the opening period fell to Kieft on the back door with 51 seconds remaining but her shot was saved up high by Salatas.
In the early stages of the second, Scavotto made a pair of saves to help the Hawks kill off a penalty. Saint Anselm then cashed in on a power-play opportunity of its own at 9:16, as Spillane beat Salatas about a minute after the Holy Cross netminder denied her. The Hawks had a shot to go up two with another power play but the Crusaders survived and went on to even the game at 1-1 on an Emily Lissner goal with 2:06 left in the period.
Saint Anselm started the third with 1:51 of penalty kill time and took another minor 1:06 in, leaving Holy Cross with 45 seconds of a 5-on-3. The Hawks killed off both penalties, allowing just two shots on goal. The score remained 1-1 until Shea buried a loose puck at 5:41 of the third to give Saint Anselm its second one-goal lead of the game.
The Hawks continued to hold the one-goal advantage into the final minute. With 28 seconds to go, the Crusaders pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker and the move paid off when Kara Violette scored with 14.8 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
In the overtime session, both teams had chances to win prior to Kieft's decider. Saint Anselm outshot Holy Cross 7-4 in the overtime to make the final tally 38-26 in favor of the Hawks.