Women’s Hockey Sweeps Colby on Opening Weekend

By Fritz Parker

The Middlebury women’s hockey team opened their 2014-2015 season this past weekend, Nov. 15 and 16, with a doubleheader against conference foe Colby. The Panthers outscored the visiting Mules 9-1 on the weekend, en route to a pair of wins.

After narrowly missing qualification for the NCAA tournament a year ago, Middlebury enters the new season ranked fourth in the Division III hockey national poll. As the highest ranked team from the NESCAC, the Panthers trail only reigning national champion Plattsburgh State, in-state rival Norwich University and Elmira College.

Though Middlebury was favored to win, the opening weekend against Colby has nearly tripped up the team in past years. Just last season, the Panthers escaped Waterville with a narrow 2-1 victory on opening night. The opener last Saturday night in Kenyon arena was not so close.

Senior forward Emily Fluke ’15 got the Panthers on the board in just the second minute of play, taking advantage of an early power-play opportunity to give Middlebury a 1-0 lead. Carly Watson ’17 assisted Fluke’s goal. Allie Aiello ’17 soon added an insurance goal for Middlebury in the 18th minute to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.

Five minutes into the second period, Elizabeth Wulf ’18 netted the first goal of her college career with assists from Julia Wardwell ’16 and Hannah Bielawski ’15. Despite having to go on the penalty kill twice in the period, the Panthers kept pressure on the Mule defense throughout, nearly earning goals on two man-down breakaways. Colby goalkeeper Angelica Crites recorded eight saves in the second period to keep her team within three goals from a comeback.

After Colby’s Carolyn Fuwa was called for a holding penalty in the third minute of the final period, Watson scored for Middlebury just as the penalty expired to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead. Nikki Donato got the Mules on the board later in the period, but it was too little too late for Colby.

Bielawski’s first goal of the season kicked off a three-goal run for Middlebury over the game’s final 10 minutes, with Aiello and Victoria Laven ’17 adding goals of their own down the stretch. By the final horn the scoreboard read 7-1 in Middlebury’s favor.

The Panthers outshot the Mules 31-11 in the opener, with nearly half of those shots coming in the final period of play. Middlebury was 1 for 6 on power plays, while Colby failed to convert on all 5 of their man-up opportunities.

For the weekend’s second game on Sunday afternoon, both teams made switches in goal, with Jessica Thulin replacing Crites for Colby, and Maddie Marsh ’15 taking the place of Annabelle Jones ’15 in goal for the Panthers. While Thulin played an outstanding game in goal, she could not help her team on the offensive end, as Panther goalkeeper Marsh recorded her first shutout of the season in Middlebury’s 2-0 win.

Just a minute into the game, a tripping call against Colby’s Sasha Fritts gave Middlebury a power-play opportunity. Watson was able to make the most of that opportunity, burying a feed from Maddie Winslow ’18 in the back of the net to give Middlebury a 1-0 lead. The two teams traded power-play advantages for the rest of the period, with neither team managing to score.

The second period was a quiet one on the scoreboards, as Thulin and Marsh kept the attackers at bay with strong play in the net. Thulin, who would end the game with 25 saves, made 10 in the second period alone to keep her team in the game, as the score remained 1-0.

The Panthers eventually found an opportunity for another shot past Thulin in the third period, as Janka Hlinka ’18 – with assists from Fluke and Watson – added an insurance goal for Middlebury to make the score 2-0. A pair of late power plays allowed the Panthers to run out the clock and secure the win by the same score.

Middlebury outshot Colby 27-13 while earning the win, and the Panthers did a particularly stellar job on penalty kill in the game, holding the Mules scoreless despite seven power-play opportunities. Middlebury was 1 for 5 on power plays in the game.

Following the weekend’s games, Watson was named NESCAC Player of the Week. A first-time honoree, Watson scored a pair of goals in the two games against Colby, while also contributing a pair of assists.

After starting the season 2-0, the Middlebury squad will take to the road on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 22 and 23, for a pair of matchups with Trinity. Early-season play will culminate in a tournament at Plattsburgh State at the end of the month, where the Panthers will face number one Plattsburgh State and number three Elmira.

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