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Women’s hockey: Clarkson prevails over Boston College in NCAA quarterfinals

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POTSDAM — For the first time in the program’s 11-year history, the Clarkson University women’s hockey team is headed to the Frozen Four.

Senior goalie Erica Howe registered 23 saves, Vanessa Gagnon scored twice, and the nationally ranked No. 3/4 Golden Knights beat No. 5 Boston College, 3-1, in the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Cheel Arena.

Clarkson (29-5-5) will play Mercyhurst University in the NCAA semifinals Friday at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

Mercyhurst upset Cornell, 3-2, in a quarterfinal game Saturday.

“I think the girls really stuck to our game plan,” said Clarkson’s co-head coach, Shannon Desrosiers, who played in the initial women’s Frozen Four game in 2001 as a member of St. Lawrence University.

“We had everyone going today, everyone doing the simple things, making the simple plays, and just doing whatever it takes to get the job done,” she added.

Clarkson was winless in its previous two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2013.

Senior Jamie Lee Rattray, who was named the ECAC Player of the Year last week and is a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, assisted on all three Clarkson goals.

Both of Gagnon’s goals came off deflections. She re-directed a missed shot from Rattray to put the Golden Knights up 1-0 with four minutes left in the first period.

She then cleaned up a miss from Brittany Styner 23 seconds into the third period to give Clarkson a 3-0 lead.

Gagnon, a senior, was named the ECAC women’s hockey Student Athlete of the Year last week.

“Just watching her throughout her career, she just wants it, she wants to win,” Desrosiers said of Gagnon. “She plays with a ton of passion, she is as dedicated obviously off the ice too with her perfect GPA, but she’s a special kid. A hard worker, she would do anything to win and do anything for her teammates.”

The Golden Eagles scored a power-play goal with just less than four minutes to play to deny Howe the shutout. She leads the nation in that category with 14 on the season and has three in her last five games.

The Golden Knights were without top defender Erin Ambrose for the second straight game because of injury.

“I think it was a good confidence builder last weekend when we didn’t have her against Cornell because our defense played solid,” Desrosiers said. “All of our ‘D’ really stepped it up. They just kept it simple, moved the puck up to our forwards and our forwards really helped too, putting pressure on the back check and putting pressure on their forwards.”

Styner scored on a wrist shot through traffic midway through the second period to give Clarkson a 2-0 lead.

Boston College (27-7-3) was denied a fourth straight trip to the Frozen Four.

Clarkson improved to 28-0-4 when scoring first, and 27-0-3 when leading after two periods.

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