Women's Hockey Regains League Control by Thrashing Bowdoin

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Peter Yordan

The storied Middlebury women’s hockey team added another prize to their already full trophy case, regaining their league crown with a decisive 4-0 victory over top seed Bowdoin College in the championship game of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) on Sunday. Despite their overpowering performance, the Panthers haven’t seen the last of their rivals from Maine. The team has to go right back to Bowdoin for the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Championships this weekend.
For the first time in recent memory, Middlebury did not enter the postseason as favorites. Though their overall record of 16-2-4 would be the envy of many a team, it wasn’t good enough to earn home ice advantage for the program that went seven-odd years without a loss in Division III play. Middlebury quickly demonstrated that they were not just along for the ride, however, trouncing Amherst 9-0 in the quarterfinals.
The team then traveled to host school Bowdoin for their semifinal match-up against archrival Williams College, the team that knocked them out of the NESCAC tournament in last year’s semifinal. “We definitely didn’t forget what happened last time,” said Assistant Captain Angela Kapus ’03. “It was a chance to redeem ourselves for last year’s loss.” This time around Middlebury got the better of their rivals to the south, relying on their stars to get the win as team offensive leaders Kapus and Amber Neil ’03 spurred the team on to a 3-2 victory.
Middlebury got things started early on the Panthers’ first power play of the game, with Neil picking up her team-leading 20th goal of the year 13 minutes into the first period. The Ephs quickly answered back, however, evening the score at one a piece five minutes later.
The Panthers took the lead once again midway through the second period when Kapus, the NESCAC Player of the Year, ripped a one-timer past the Williams goalie to make the score 2-1. Kapus then added her second goal of the night in the third period to increase her league-leading point total of 54.
Williams made things interesting when the team, with its net empty, scored with 14 seconds left, but Middlebury hung on for the 3-2 win. “There was a bit of concern when they scored at the end, but we were able to refocus immediately and not let that shake our game,” said Kapus.
Heading into the final game the top two teams, Middlebury and Bowdoin, had been a class above their NESCAC rivals. Neither team had lost to a NESCAC opponent all year, with the Polar Bears being the only undefeated team in Division III. In their two previous encounters neither team could prevail in a pair of fiercely contested ties.
The opening period started furiously, with both teams looking to draw first blood. Bowdoin levied eight shots on the Middlebury net, but Junior netminder Kati Madouros was sharp in denying the powerful Polar Bear attack. “Bowdoin came at us hard and fast and had us against the wall, but we were able to withstand the pressure,” said Kapus. “Kati played unbelievably, she made a couple big saves that sparked some real excitement on the bench.” Bowdoin’s keeper, Emily McKissock did equally well to stop several good Panther scoring opportunities, and the teams went into the first intermission with the game still scoreless.
In the second period, however, Middlebury destroyed any potential for another close finish between the two teams, stunning the Polar Bears with three goals in a seven minute span. Jean Butler ’04 started things out with her second big goal in as many weeks eight minutes into the period, roofing the puck over McKissock’s shoulder to take the 1-0 lead. Hannah Delong ’06 knocked in the second goal of the period just 90 seconds later. “It shook Bowdoin scoring twice like that,” said Kapus. “The second goal kind of put them on their heels.” Middlebury kept up their intensity, scoring its third unanswered goal at the 15 minute mark off a shot from Gloria Velez ’06. This gave the Panthers a commanding 3-0 lead.
Bowdoin tried to resurrect its game in the final period, but Madouros and the Panthers were resolute in their defensive determination. Lorna Gifis ’05 put the result beyond doubt with another Middlebury goal just four minutes from the end to give Middlebury a dominant 4-0 victory and the NESCAC crown.
The Panthers were dealt a rude shock in the midst of their celebration, however, when they learned of the decision of the NCAA selection committee to send them back to Bowdoin for the first round of the National Championship Tournament. “We were definitely surprised. We just beat Bowdoin and we expected for them to come to our home ice, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Kapus. “We’ve just got to stay relaxed and play our game. We’ve gone through a lot together, we’re excited to go back.”