Elmira resident Erin Zach helped make NCAA history on Mar. 17 when her Rochester Institute of Technology teammates captured the school’s first Division III women’s ice hockey national championship. “It’s an indescribable feeling. It was amazing,” said an elated Zach from her parent’s home in Elmira, where she is recovering from an illness. The RIT Tigers scored three third-period goals in front of a home crowd of nearly 1,200 fans to snap a 1-1 tie and defeat the defending national championship team from Norwich University. Zach also said the presence of her parents, who make the three-and-a-half hour drive to Rochester for almost all of her games, was a big boost.
“The fans were amazing and it was great being at home and not having to travel and everyone was cheering so loudly when we won,” she said, adding it was nice to get revenge on the Norwich team that had beaten RIT in last year’s championship game.Although she was kept off the scoreboard in the final game, the title caps off a strong season for Zach in her second year of play for the Tigers.The forward finished with six goals and eight assists in 27 games this year, helping RIT set a Division III record for wins with 28.
In the finals Zach said the coaches and players stressed keeping the game simple and just continue to play their own style of game.
“We just talked about how we should play our game and not take any dumb penalties,” she said. “Just keep up the good work that we had done all year, and go out and do what we can do.”
“This is a team that played hard thoughout the season. Going into the third period tonight at 1-1, we knew we weren’t losing,” said RIT head coach Scott McDonald. “We wanted it more, blocked shots, got in lanes, did all the little things that allowed us to win.”
The Tigers are now 54-3-3 over the past two seasons and shortly after the championship win announced they would be moving up to Division I play starting next season. Normally a two-year process, the team was admitted due to Niagara University dropping its women’s hockey program, a move announced last week.
Zach said that her coaches and teammates are taking a realistic approach to the move to the more competitive level of hockey. They’ve just won the national championships but are hard at work training for next season, she said.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” she said. “We’re hoping to be at least in the middle of the pack. It’s going to be hard but we’re in spring training right now and doing some hard lifting to hopefully bulk up a little bit and play on the big stage.”
Now in her second year of studying media arts and technology, the sophomore was accepted to RIT on financial assistance after starring for the Cambridge Fury and the EDSS Lancers, and was named the Central Western Ontario Secondary School Association MVP in 2010.