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Chris Duffy's Sports Editor's Notebook: Plymouth State has come a long way

Union Leader Sports Editor

February 20. 2018 11:30PM

The Plymouth State University women’s hockey team accomplished something last Saturday that nobody could have envisioned in the early years of the varsity program.

The Panthers won a conference tournament game.

And they did it in style. When sophomore Sydney Linnick scored in overtime, PSU had beaten the University of New England 3-2 in a New England Hockey Conference semifinal.

Hanaway Rink must have been the happiest place on Earth.

It wasn’t always that way. In the first six years of their varsity existence, starting in 2006-07, the Panthers won three games. Talk about growing pains. One memorable night, their goalie made 76 saves (on 80 shots; hey, that’s a .950 save percentage) in a 4-0 loss.

The tide turned a bit under coach Ashley Kilstein, who took over in 2011. And now, second-year coach Mykul Haun, a former PSU player, has the Panthers (9-13-4) in the league championship game after their first-ever postseason win. They’ll play the nation’s top Division III team, Norwich, at the Cadets’ home rink on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Around the rinks

Here’s a morsel that shows exactly how down Hockey East is this season: It’s possible that if Providence College wins the league tournament, the Friars will be the only team from the conference to qualify for the NCAA Division I men’s tournament.

As of this morning, the Friars were eighth (tied with Minnesota) in the PairWise rankings, which determine the 16-team field. The next-best Hockey East club is Northeastern at 12th. Boston University is 19th, Boston College tied for 20th.

So where’s the seat of power? Try the NCHC, where six of its eight teams, including No. 1 St. Cloud State, sit in PairWise’s top 15. The Big Ten has four in the top 16. ...

Congrats to coach Bob Gaudet on his 300th coaching victory at Dartmouth College, which came last Friday night against Clarkson. (No. 301 came the next night against St. Lawrence, allowing the Big Green to sweep the four games against the North Country schools for the first time ever.)

Those wins don’t include the 77 he had over the first eight years of his head coaching career at Brown. Speaking of which, the Big Green visit Yale and Brown this weekend — the last weekend of regular-season play — with a chance to nail down home ice for the first round of the ECAC tournament. One point will do it. ...

Five teams, four great high school games in three days: Pinkerton Academy 3, Bedford 2 on Monday night, Concord at Hanover on Tuesday, Hanover at tonight tonight at 8:10 at the Ice Den in Hooksett. You can sift your Division I final four from those five clubs, with the possible exception of surging Trinity, which has won eight in a row. ...

Always fun to play the “Former Monarchs, Where are They Now?” game, this week with an Olympic twist.

There was Brian O’Neill skating for Team USA, Brandon Kozun and Linden Vey playing for Team Canada, Patrik Bartosak tending goal for the Czech Republic and Russia’s Slava Voynov, who is playing despite his history of domestic violence.

Oh, and don’t forget Nikolai Prokhorkin, who was drafted 121st by the Kings in 2012, played eight games for the Monarchs, then returned to Russia.

Local tidbits

Pinkerton product Maria Soraghan, among the honorees (along with Simmons College teammate Natalie Giraldi) at the Feb. 11 Leaders banquet, was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference women’s swimming and diving rookie of the week for her efforts in the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Championships over the weekend.

She had a great day, to say the least: first in the 200-yard freestyle; second in the 100-yard freestyle; third in the 500 freestyle; part of the winning 800 freestyle relay team; part of the 400 freestyle relay team.

It marked the sixth time this season she has earned rookie of the week honors.

Giraldi, a senior from Bedford, placed second in the 100-yard individual medley, topping her own school-record time at 1:01.19 ...

SNHU’s Sarah Lavallee had quite the start to her softball season. During the Penmen’s 6-0 trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Manchester Central grad hit four homers (including a grand slam), drove in nine, hit .300, and went 4-0 in the circle with a 1.75 ERA, 11 strikeouts and no walks. ...

Baseball America has announced its preseason All-American teams and Bedford High’s Grant Lavigne made the Second Team. Opening day for NHIAA baseball is April 11 — field conditions permitting. ...

A Gedman will coach the Winnipesaukee Muskrats of the NEBL this season. It’s Michael Gedman, also the head coach at Framingham State and, yes, a son of former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman.

The Muskrats open June 5 at Robbie Mills Field in Laconia. ...

Should be a warm one out there today for the season’s only matchup of the state’s Division I women’s lacrosse programs, UNH at Dartmouth College, at 3 p.m. Gotta love our weather. ...

According to SNHU’s director of athletics communication Eric Coplin, men’s basketball coach Stan Spirou will do what he did last year in determining whether he’ll return to the bench. When the Penmen’s season concludes, he’ll talk it over with family and make his decision.

This season marks Spirou’s 33rd at SNHU.