Women’s Hockey Wants to Host Final Four

By SEBASTIAN SANCHEZ

The reigning Nescac champions start the hunt for their third title in four years on Friday, Nov. 17, when they will host the Trinity Bantams in Kenyon Arena. Last year, the Panthers finished with a 19–7–2 record, and although they fell short in their run to the Frozen Four, they are back with more hunger, more fire and more determination. Their schedule will not be easy, as seven of their opponents are nationally ranked or received votes — but the challenge is nothing new.

The winningest coach in the history of women’s collegiate hockey, Bill Mandigo (541-142-39), enters his 30th season at the helm for the Panthers. Mandigo is a mainstay who will continue to lead his players in the right direction, hoping to send the Class of 2018 out with a Nescac ring and a national championship trophy.

From a roster point of view, the squad only graduated four players. Though they brought on several freshmen — 10 to be exact— senior captain Janka Hlinka ’18 says it won’t be a problem. In fact, she says, it will only help them.

“Our expectations this year are just like any other teams, we want to go as far as our season will let us. We have a large team this year we will be able to use our size to keep fresh legs on the ice. The true test will be our first game to see how much we have learned and how well we work together. I’m just excited to be with this group of people playing such a high level of hockey and I’m trying not to think that it’s my last season at [Middlebury].”

Wulf echoed her sentiments and went into the depth about their expectations.

“Our expectations for this year are to build off our previous successes and create our own new success. Obviously, it’s a new team every year, but we believe we have the talent and work ethic to be just as if not more successful than we were last year. We want to defend our Nescac title and do what no other team in our program has done which is three-peat as Nescac champs.”
Beyond the Nescac champion, Wulf says the team has set an even loftier goal. One that is high, but undoubtedly achievable for this group.

“In addition, we not only want to be in the Final Four but host it. With that said, those are the bigger goals, and we a long way to go before we can get there. We need to focus on doing the little things first and not get too ahead of ourselves. We expect to win, but we need to take it one game at a time, so for us we are solely focused on playing Trinity [tomorrow] night in our home opener.”

Middlebury has worked hard in the off season, skating several times a week, improving speed, communication and overall efficiency on the ice.

“The focus during the off-season/preseason has been our team motto this year ‘All In,’” Wulf said. “Whether it’s holding each other and ourselves accountable or making sure we clean up after ourselves, we want to all be on the same page and focus on the same goal. While we know we have potential, it’s take hard work, grit, and mental toughness to get there.

“We have to trust the process and be just as committed to that as our team goals. We’ve been saying you’re either all in or you’re not in at all, and I think we’ve done a good job so far being all in together. We’ve worked extremely hard both on and off the ice this preseason, and we are excited to finally get to see where we are at this weekend with our first games.

“As crazy as it is that this is my last season, I’m looking forward to just being on the ice every day and playing with the great group we have. It’s my favorite part of the day, and I can’t wait to create more memories with this team.

Other seniors for the Panthers, Jessica Young ’18 and Maddie Winslow ’18, will look to lead the team again on the scoring front.Young netted 16 goals and notched 20 assists last season, and enters her senior campaign with 45 goals and 53 assists on her career. Winslow, who was the 2016 New England Division II-III Women’s Player of the Year, enters her final season with career totals of 42 goals and 53 assists. Together, the duo is dangerous and anybody in Kenyon Arena should pay attention when they are on the ice.

“You tend to remember your last season the most,” said Wulf, “so we want us to make this a special one and leave it all on the ice with no regrets. We have a very motivated and determined group, and I can’t wait to see how we progress.”

Overall, the Panthers are tough, experienced competitors. The roster is filled with speed, power and authority and they will undoubtedly be one of the top teams to be in the Nescac.
The season will get underway tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in Hartford, Connecticut, where they will face-off against Trinity.

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Women’s Hockey Wants to Host Final Four