Panthers Take a Pair of Ties in Amherst Doubleheader

Forward Elizabeth Wulf ’18 puts the puck on net during Middlebury’s Friday-Saturday doubleheader against NESCAC women’s hockey rival Amherst on Jan. 16 and 17. (The Campus/Michael O'hara)

Forward Elizabeth Wulf ’18 puts the puck on net during Middlebury’s Friday-Saturday doubleheader against NESCAC women’s hockey rival Amherst on Jan. 16 and 17. (The Campus/Michael O'hara)

By Fritz Parker

In a long-awaited matchup of conference front-runners, Middlebury and Amherst played to a pair of hard-fought ties in their weekend doubleheader on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 16 and 17 in Kenyon Arena. The teams scored two goals apiece on Friday night, before coming back Saturday to tie at one all.

Entering the weekend, the Lord Jeffs held down the top spot in the NESCAC standings by virtue of their unblemished record in conference play. The Panthers,  whose only NESCAC loss was by a goal to Trinity in November, sat just behind in second place. Middlebury, meanwhile, held the advantage in the national poll, ranking second while Amherst was ranked ninth.

Middlebury got out to a fast start in Friday’s opener with a goal from Carly Watson ’17. Watson was assisted by Maddie Winslow ’18 and Katie Mandigo ’16. Amherst tied it up with a goal four minutes into the second period, but were unable to capitalize on three power-play opportunities later in the period, and went into the final 20 minutes with the score locked at one.

In the third, Amherst finally broke through on the power play to take a one-goal lead midway through the period. Winslow scored the equalizer for Middlebury – with assists from Hannah Bielawski ’15 and Mandigo – to force sudden-death overtime.

Neither team was able to score in the extra period, and the game ended in a tie.

The Panthers earned the tie despite finding themselves on the penalty kill five times in the game, while earning only one power play. Middlebury outshot Amherst 31-28, including a 3-1 shooting advantage in overtime.

Annabelle Jones ’15 played the entire 65 minutes in goal for Middlebury, stopping 26 of the 28 shots she faced.

Friday’s tie only heightened the pressure for Saturday’s match, creating a rubber-match atmosphere inside Kenyon Arena that often is not seen until the postseason.

The Panthers would need all the crowd support they could get, however, as they quickly fell behind and were forced to come back late. After Bielawski went to the box on a tripping call, Lord Jeff skater Erin Martin pushed the puck past Panther senior goalie Maddie Marsh ’15 to give her team the early advantage.
The teams traded man-up opportunities during the second period – with the Panthers seeing their first significant power-play time of the weekend – but neither was able to score.

Untimely penalties prevented Middlebury from gaining an advantage as they looked for an equalizer during the third period. Just as things began to look bleak for the Panthers, Jessica Young ’18 took a feed from Bielawski and Emily Fluke ’15 and buried it in the net to tie the game with less than two minutes remaining.

Amherst failed to convert a power play in extra time, and the final whistle sounded with the score still tied at one.

Middlebury again outshot Amherst in game two, holding a 28-22 advantage in that category.

The Panthers took an uncharacteristic number of penalties in both games, with 13 over the weekend for 26 penalty minutes.

With the pair of ties, Amherst and Middlebury remained locked in first and second place in the NESCAC. If the current standings hold out for the remainder of the season, hockey fans can expect to see the teams square off during the conference’s postseason tournament in late February.

“Amherst has always been one of the top-ranked NESCAC teams, so it’s no surprise that these were competitive games,” Fluke said. “We’re going to keep moving forward as a team, and it starts with these Bowdoin games.”

Middlebury returns to action this weekend, Jan. 23 and 24, for a pair of road matchups with Bowdoin. If there is a team that is capable of breaking up the Amherst-Middlebury grip upon the NESCAC, it is likely the Polar Bears. The Panthers will need to play sharp hockey if they hope to emerge from the weekend with two more wins to their record.

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