Whitney Powel broke a 13-13 tie with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, propelling Denison to a wild, 14-13 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinal win over Allegheny in Meadville, Pa.
The Denison comeback seemed improbable in many ways. With 18 minutes to play in the game it did not appear as if a comeback would even be needed. Denison held a commanding 11-6 lead after beginning the second half on a 3-0 run.
Then, a shorthanded goal by Allegheny's Gusty Mead seemed to wake up the Gator sidelines and for the next five minutes of play the Big Red never managed even one shot attempt. During that span the Gators went on a 4-0 run to cut the Denison lead to 11-10 with 10:16 to play. Allegheny's Alexa Maloney was behind two of the four goals and Mackenzie Bell provided the helping pass on three of the scores.
Over the next five minute of action, neither team would put a goal on the board despite three shots from the Gators and two from the Big Red. Finally, on their third straight free position attempt, Allegheny's Kelly Dickson tied the game at 12-12 with 5:31 left.
AC would control the ensuing draw, and would patiently work the ball around until Mead hit Jacqueline Morrow for the one-timer, giving Allegheny its first lead since the game was 3-2 in the opening minutes of play.
With Allegheny having scored six-straight goals in a span of 13 minutes, a Denison comeback seemed unlikely given the recent avalanche of Gator goals. All of the momentum was on the side of the home team and with the seconds ticking off the clock Denison had to act fast.
With just under four minutes to play, a drawn charge by Denison's Hollis Hunsberger gave the ball back to Denison. The Big Red quickly cleared and Molly Chapman went right at the cage before being fouled by a Gator defender. That set up an 8-meter attempt that was converted by Chapman, tying the game 12-12 with 2:27 to play.
DU would take the draw, and another foul inside the fan would give Powel a free position shot with 1:41 to go. Powel would score to put her team on top, 13-12.
Right on cue, Allegheny would strike back after a caused turnover by Jessie Thiessen allowed her team to go back on offense with under a minute to play. Bell would hit Alyssa Rapelje who would convert, knotting the game at 13-13 with 46 seconds to play.
Anyone who thought this one might be going to overtime hadn't been paying attention because Denison's Erin Keller won the draw and after a few passes, Carol Allen found Powel for the go-ahead goal with 12 seconds left.
Those 12 seconds would tick away slowly for Big Red Nation as Mead pulled down the draw control and fed the ball to Bell who ran down the right side of the field on a fast break. Bell drove to the center and went right at Denison goalie Laura Van Horn who came with the biggest save of her young career as the final two seconds ticked off the clock.
Van Horn finished with six saves while seeing 31 shots from the Gators. To say that this was an even game you need to look no further than the final statistics. In fact, both teams attempted 31 shots. DU held a 22-17 edge in ground balls, but the Big Red committed 19 turnovers compared to 15 for the Gators. The key stat for Denison came on the draws as they held an 18-11 advantage.
Chapman snagged nine draws and finished with two goals and one assist. With her lone assist on a beautiful Elsie Humes goal early in the second half, she became the fourth player in conference history to score 100 career goals and total 100 career assists.
Claire Ludlow paced DU with four goals via seven shot attempts. Powel posted two goals, both of which came in the final two minutes of play. She also led the team with four assists. Allen and Reid Hirschey also posted multi-goal efforts for Denison. Defensively, Hunsberger caused two turnovers and Melissa Weinsz led the team with five ground balls.
Allegheny got hat-trick's from Maloney and Dickson while Bell scored one goal and added five assists. Gator netminder Kaelin Clogan recorded 11 saves in her 60 minutes of play.
Denison will advance to the NCAC Tournament Championship on Saturday, May 3 in Springfield, Ohio versus top-seeded Wittenberg at 5 p.m. The Tigers defeated The College of Wooster, 19-11 in Wednesday's other NCAC Semifinal.