By Jean DePlacido
---- — Steph Ciampa refused to get rattled.
Because of that, the Peabody native and her team is two games away from winning an NCAA women’s hockey championship.
A senior goaltender for Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, Ciampa and her teammates will skate in tonight’s Frozen Four against Boston University for the right to play for the national title on Sunday.
Tonight’s game (9 p.m.) between Ciampa’s Lakers (29-6-1) and the Terriers (27-5-3) is the second of two semifinals in Minneapolis; host Minnesota (39-0-0) meets Boston College (27-6-3) in the other semifinal starting at 6 p.m.
“We didn’t played BU this season,” said Ciampa, whose team is going to the Frozen Four for the third time and first since 2010. “I was on the same team with their goalie, Kerrin Sperry (of North Reading) at Assabet for a few years, and I played against a couple of their other girls. I know they’re a very good team; at this point in the season, you can expect close games because teams are playing with so much pride.
“The last couple of weeks, everyone on my team has picked up the pace. We’re all buying into the system and playing together.”
The Lakers got to the Frozen Four by upstting second-seeded Cornell in last weekend’s quartefinal round. Ciampa didn’t flinch when the Big Red tied the game in the final minute of regulation; instead, she made four big saves in overtime (and 29 for the game) as her teammates rallied to win in the extra session and punch their ticket to Minneapolis.
Heading into that game, Mercyhurst had lost four consecutive overtime playoff games.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” said Ciampa, whose team lost to Cornell back in January, 4-0. “We had gone ahead with just over a minute left in regulation, but were called for icing in the final minute. Cornell pulled the goalie, won a faceoff and scored a quick goal to force overtime. We tried to stay positive because we felt we were playing well.
“Cornell is such a good team with so many scorers, but we did it. Our whole team went wild after Jenna Dingledein scored about five minutes into overtime (to win it).”
Ciampa is 20-1-0 this season and posted her 11th straight win against Cornell (she did not start the first game against the Big Red and allowed just one goal in a relief effort). She started the 2012-13 campaign splitting time in goal, but has been red hot and got the nod for all the big games down the stretch and in the tournament.
She and the Lakers arrived to Minneapolis two days agao and practiced at Ridder Arena yesterday before attending a banquet for all four teams last night.
Boston University reached the Frozen Four by defeating Clarkson, 5-3, in the quarterfinals, while Boston College took care of Harvard, 3-1. North Dakota took the unbeaten Gophers to triple overtime before falling, 3-2.
Alex Carpenter, daughter of former NHL great Bobby Carpenter of Peabody, is one of the top scorers for Boston College. For Boston University, freshman forward Dakota Woodworth is the daughter for former pro skier Richie Woodworth, who grew up in Peabody. Dakota lived in Ipswich before the family moved to Carlisle.
“We’re all pretty pumped up,” said Ciampa. “I had hoped this would be the way I’d end my college career, but you never know. I think it’s every player’s dream, but it’s so hard to get to the Frozen Four.
“I know I’m pretty excited, and I’m glad my family will be there to see it.”