The Long Island University women’s hockey team, which features Alaskans Mikayla Lantto and Journey Miller, and has only been in existence four seasons, savored a milestone moment over the weekend.
The Sharks are headed to the NCAA Division I women’s hockey tournament.
LIU (20-13-3) won the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance’s tournament title Saturday with a 2-0 win over St. Anselm and earned the conference’s first automatic bid to the 11-team NCAA tournament.
The unranked Sharks on Thursday will face No. 6 Wisconsin (25-10-2) in a first-round game at Colgate University in New York. The winner advances to play No. 3 Colgate (32-5-2) on Saturday.
Senior transfer forward Mikayla Lantto of Wasilla propelled the Sharks into the NEWHA championship game when she scored 40 seconds into overtime Wednesday to give them a 2-1 victory over Franklin Pierce.
Lantto, who previously played at Penn State, owns 10-8—18 scoring totals in 34 games and leads Sharks shooters with 102 shots on goal.
LIU also includes sophomore forward Journey Miller of Soldotna, a transfer from Minnesota State-Mankato. Miller is 1-2—3 in 20 games this season.
Sharks first-year coach Kelly Nash, who won two national titles as a player at Wisconsin, faces her alma mater.
Meanwhile, four Alaskans are headed to the NCAA Division III women’s tournament.
No. 13 Nazareth (22-5-1) will play at No. 6 Hamilton (19-4-2) in a first-round NCAA game in New York on Wednesday. The Golden Flyers earned their second straight NCAA berth by winning the United Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament championship Saturday, when they beat Utica 3-2 in double overtime. Nazareth scored an extra-attacker goal in the waning seconds of regulation before delivering the dagger on a power play less than two minutes into the second OT.
Golden Flyers junior goaltender McKinley Hoff of Anchorage stopped 25 shots to improve to 16-4-1, with a 1.07 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. Nazareth also includes sophomore defenseman Sydney Swanson of Anchorage, who blocked four Utica shots and owns 1-12—13 totals in 21 games. Forward Corsica Skibinksi of Anchorage has been an impact freshman for Nazareth with 4-8—12 totals in 25 games.
Senior forward Tate Senden of Palmer and No. 10 Colby (17-7-0) are also headed to the NCAAs. Colby will play at No. 11 Norwich (18-7-2) in Vermont on Wednesday after earning one of four at-large berths in the 11-team tournament. Senden has delivered 9-13—22 totals in 24 games this season.
In other Division III women’s news, Wasilla snipers Darci Matson and Kaylee Merrill, two of the most goaltender-unfriendly forwards in the nation, were voted Player of the Year and First-Team all-conference selections in their respective leagues.
Matson, a Second-Team All-American as a rookie for Aurora University last season and the nation’s leading scorer this season, was voted Northern Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Year after racking 31-34—65 totals and an equally ridiculous plus-53 rating in 27 games. She scored at least one point in 25 of those 27 games and generated 18 multiple-point games.
Merrill, a senior at SUNY-Potsdam, was voted Northeast Women’s Hockey League’s Player of the Year after producing 27-12—39 totals and a plus-10 rating in 25 games. She cranked out 10 multiple-goal games.
Meanwhile, freshman forward Bailey Brunnhoelzl of Wasilla and St. Norbert was voted to the NCHA All-Freshman Team after bagging 11-9—20 totals in 29 games.