Panthers Take Two on Own Ice

By Fritz Parker

The fourth-ranked Middlebury women’s hockey team grabbed a pair of conference wins this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9 and 10, defeating Wesleyan in both games of a weekend doubleheader on the Panthers’ home ice.

Entering the weekend’s games, the Panthers sat in third in the NESCAC conference standings at 3-1, as Amherst and Bowdoin remained unbeaten in league play. A pair of matchups with the 4-4 Cardinals presented a prime opportunity for the Panthers to gain ground on the Lord Jeffs and Polar Bears in the standings.

Middlebury did not let that opportunity get away from them. Friday’s weekend opener saw the Panthers start slow before riding a big first period to an easy 6-2 victory.

Wesleyan’s Jordan Schildhaus put her team on the board first, notching an unassisted goal at the seven-minute mark for the 1-0 advantage. From that point until the end of the opening period, the Middlebury skaters put four goals past the Wesleyan goalkeeper to give their team a decisive early lead. Elizabeth Wulf ’18 scored the first of those goals, with Allie Aiello ’17, Janka Hlinka ’18 and Kelly Sherman ’17 all finding the net before the first buzzer sounded.

Katie Mandigo ’16 made the score 5-1 with her third goal of the season midway through the second period, before a Wesleyan goal late in the period cut the Panther lead to four headed into the final period of play.

The third period was quiet on the scoring front, with Maddie Winslow ’18 scoring a power play goal at the 13-minute mark for the period’s only goal, bringing the score to the final 6-2 margin.

Middlebury outshot Wesleyan 25-16 in Friday’s game. The Panthers took advantage of both of their power play opportunities, scoring two of their six goals on the man-up advantage. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were 0-4 on the power play in the game.

Saturday’s game would not be such an easy win for the Panthers. The opening period saw the two teams locked in a hard-fought stalemate, with neither squad able to capitalize on the few scoring opportunities that they had. The buzzer sounded on the first period with the scoreboard still reading 0-0.

The Panthers broke through in the second minute of the second period, with Jessica Young ’18 converting a goal with assists from Carly Watson ’17 and Emily Fluke ’15. After Julia Wardwell ’16 was send to the penalty box for interference, Wesleyan scored just 18 minutes into the power play to knot the score at one apiece. A Middlebury man-up opportunity in the period’s final minutes would see the Panthers take the lead back, as Mandigo – assisted by Hlinka and Wardwell – snuck one past the Cardinal keeper.

The final period saw the teams trade power play opportunities, though neither team was able to convert. Wesleyan had one final opportunity to tie the score when Anna Van Kula ’16 took a tripping penalty with three minutes remaining on the clock, but the Middlebury penalty kill unity proved up to the task of defending the slim lead. After the Panthers killed off the penalty, Wardwell scored an empty-net goal – her first of the season – to give Middlebury the 3-1 victory in the game’s final minutes.

Middlebury again outshot Wesleyan in game two, this time by a 24-18 margin. Both teams struggled on the power play, combining to be 2-8 over the course of the game.
Back in action against Utica in a midweek contest on Tuesday, Jan. 13, the Panthers won their third game of the week, riding an overtime goal from Jessica Young ’18 to a 2-1 win.
Mandigo scored the Panthers’ first goal against Utica in the opening minutes of the second period. Utica was able to tie the score at one apiece in the third period, and the score would stay knotted until Young’s goal sent Middlebury to victory.

With the trio of wins, Middlebury advances to 8-2-1 overall on the season and 5-1 in NESCAC play. Because Bowdoin split their doubleheader against Connecticut College, the Panthers move up to second in the conference standings, now trailing only Amherst.
The Panthers have benefited this season from the strong play of many of their younger players. Underclassmen accounted for seven of the Panthers’ 11 goals during the week, with first-years scoring five of those goals.
Middlebury will need that production as they go up against Amherst this weekend. The Lord Jeffs – currently ranked ninth in the nation – remain undefeated in the conference, although they have not yet squared off with perennial contenders Middlebury or Bowdoin. The Panthers will host the Lord Jeffs on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 16 and 17, as both teams look to gain crucial conference wins in advance of postseason play.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.