Women’s Hockey Skates to Eigth Consecutive Victory

Middlebury women’s hockey continued its winning ways around the February break, winning five straight contests.

Middlebury women’s hockey continued its winning ways around the February break, winning five straight contests.

By Fritz Parker

The Middlebury women’s hockey team made the most of their week off from classes during the February break, rattling off five wins including an overtime victory over in-state rival and national number-three Norwich on Tuesday, Feb. 3. The Panthers have now won eight consecutive games, and have not lost since falling to Elmira way back on Nov. 29.

The Panthers concluded Winter Term with a weekend home doubleheader against NESCAC foe Hamilton on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 30 and 31, taking both games by 2-0 and 3-1 margins respectively.

In Friday’s opener, the teams battled through a scoreless opening period before Panther forward Emily Fluke ’15 beat the Continental goalkeeper to give her team the early lead. That score was assisted by Victoria Laven ’17 and Captain Kate Moreau ’15. Later in the period, Jessica Young ’18 converted on a power-play opportunity to increase the lead to two.

In the third period, the Panthers were able to kill off a pair of penalties as they held Hamilton scoreless until the closing buzzer. Goalkeeper Annabelle Jones ’15 stopped all 24 shots she faced in earning the shutout win. The Panthers, meanwhile, put 29 shots on the Hamilton goal during the game.

Back on the ice in Kenyon Arena for Saturday’s game, the Continentals were not able to play as closely with the Panthers as they had the night before. In the first period alone, Middlebury poured 13 shots on the opponent’s goalkeeper, with Julia Wardwell ’16 managing to bury one of those in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, Fluke one-upped her performance from the night before by netting a pair of power-play goals – the first assisted by Carly Watson ’17 and Hannah Bielawski ’15 and the second by Watson and Young – to increase the Middlebury lead to three. On the defensive end, the Panthers smothered the Continentals, allowing just two shots during the 20-minute period. Hamilton was able to break through with a power-play goal in the opening minutes of the third period, but it was all they could do to cut into the lead. Middlebury went on to win 3-1.

The Panther defense played so well that goalkeeper Maddie Marsh ’15 faced only 11 shots in the game. Saturday’s finale also featured an unusual number of penalties: 14 for the two teams for a combined 28 minutes.

Following the Hamilton weekend, Fluke was honored by the NESCAC as its Player of the Week for women’s hockey. The senior forward recorded eight points on six goals and two assists during the week, including her 100th career point in Saturday’s game. Fluke now leads the NESCAC in points with 1.72 per game.

After the pair of home conference wins, the Panthers had a quick turnaround before they hosted Norwich on Tuesday, Feb. 3. The game presented a postseason-quality matchup of two of the top teams in Division-III hockey, as the Panthers came in ranked fourth in the country and the Cadets ranked third.

The first period of play was quiet on all fronts, with neither team seeing any man-up time during 20 minutes of scoreless play. That all changed in the 13th minute of the second period, however, when Norwich’s Rachel Bellio beat Marsh to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage. A Middlebury power play in the period’s final minutes came up empty, and the Panthers went into the locker room for the second break needing a goal to force extra time.

Middlebury got the opportunity they were looking for when Norwich’s Liz Gemmiti was sent to the box for tripping in the sixth minute of the third period. Less than a minute later, Bielawski took a feed from Watson and Young and buried it in the Cadet goal to even the game at one goal apiece. The Middlebury defense again came up big in the period’s closing minutes, killing off a penalty to run out the clock on regulation.

The overtime period was over quickly. Katie Mandigo ’16 – with help from Maddie Winslow ’18 and Moreau – scored in the 43rd second of the period to send Middlebury to a sudden victory.

Marsh again got the win for Middlebury against Norwich, stopping 16 of the 17 shots she faced in the game.

The following Friday, Feb. 6, Middlebury travelled to Connecticut College for a weekend road doubleheader against the Camels. Conn. College came into the series as the third-place team in the NESCAC despite a pedestrian 6-6-2 conference record. In order to cement their status as a league contender, the Panthers needed to make a statement against the upstart Camels.

In Friday’s game they did just that. Despite 12 shots on goal in the opening period, the Panthers were unable to break through and score. The shooting barrage continued into the second period, with Middlebury sending another 18 shots on the Camel goal before Winslow was able to convert a power-play opportunity for a 1-0 lead.

Conn. College notched an equalizer in the opening minutes of the final period. After going back on the power play, the Panthers got just the boost they needed from Kelly Sherman ’17, who scored her fifth of the year to give her team the lead. Conn. College pulled its goalie as the period wound down, resulting in empty-net Panther goals from Fluke and Young.

The Panthers got out to a fast start in Saturday’s finale. Young scored a first-period goal for a 1-0 lead, before Bielawski’s third of the year gave Middlebury a two-goal advantage. After the teams traded power-play opportunities in the final period, Mandigo converted a feed from Laven to bring the game to its final 3-0 score in favor of Middlebury.

Now holders of a 16-2-3 overall record and an 11-1-2 mark in conference play, Middlebury has moved up to third in the national poll and assumed the top spot in the NESCAC standings. While they will almost certainly be returning to the NCAA postseason in 2015, the Panthers will first need to finish out their season with a pair of games against Williams on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14, as well as a final matchup with number-two Plattsburgh the following weekend.

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