Women’s Hockey Sweeps Bowdoin

Janka+Hlinka+%E2%80%9918+skates+after+the+puck+against+Bowdoin+this+weekend.+Hlinka+had+an+assist+in+Saturday%E2%80%99s+3+%E2%80%930+win.
Janka Hlinka ’18 skates after the puck against Bowdoin this weekend. Hlinka had an assist in Saturday’s 3 –0 win.

Janka Hlinka ’18 skates after the puck against Bowdoin this weekend. Hlinka had an assist in Saturday’s 3 –0 win.

EMMA STAPLETON

EMMA STAPLETON

Janka Hlinka ’18 skates after the puck against Bowdoin this weekend. Hlinka had an assist in Saturday’s 3 –0 win.

By SEBASTIAN SANCHEZ

The women’s hockey team took two games from the Bowdoin Polar Bears on Friday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 20. It was a crucial sweep for the No. 5 Panthers fighting to secure a top spot in the Nescac.

On Friday, Head Coach Bill Mandigo won his 550th career win in 30 seasons, another achievement for Mandigo who has won more women’s hockey games than any other coach in NCAA history.

Middlebury jumped out to an early lead, scoring four minutes into the opening period. Bowdoin suffered an early penalty for hooking, which gave the Panthers the opportunity with the five-on-four advantage. Lin Han ’20 stopped the puck behind the net for Jenna Marotta ’19, who flicked the puck up to Madie Leidt ’21 cutting up the ice. Leidt split to defenders and found the top-right corner of he goal for the only score of the game.

The hosts nearly doubled the lead when Janka Hlinka ’18 took two bids from point-blank range, but was turned away by Bowdoin’s goalie. Han also played spectacular defense, redirecting several shots on her way to a 27-save game.

In the middle stanza, Middlebury’s best chance came when Maddie Winslow ’18 centered a pass to Hlinka, who dangled the puck before missing wide on the shot. On a power-play, the Polar Bears tried to get the puck past Han, but she blocked both attempts in another impressive game for the second-year goalie.

It was more of the same in the final period, as both teams had equal chances to score. Middlebury’s best chance for an insurance goal came from Rachel St. Clair ’19 and Katherine Jackson ’19 in the final minutes of the contest. On the defensive end, the Panthers only allowed one shot on goal in the final period, securing their fourth-straight win in a hard-fought affair.

“They came out very hard Friday and tested us physically,” said Elizabeth Wulf ’18 after the game. “They were tough to play against, and we had to work super hard to come out with the win.”

Friday’s contest revealed the team’s chemistry and ability to grind out a win against a tough Nescac rival. But on Saturday, Jan. 20, the Panthers established their dominance, scoring a goal in every period and shut-out their opponents for the fourth time in a row.

The duo of Winslow and Jessica Young ’18 teamed up for the first score of the game. After Bowdoin suffered a tripping penalty, Young won the faceoff, who tipped it to Hlinka. Hlinka’s shot missed wide, but Young found the puck, centered a pass to Winslow, who finished in the back of the net to give the hosts an early lead.

The Polar Bears challenged senior goalie, Julia Neuburger ’18, on a power play; however, the veteran stopped all five shots on the way to a 26-save game.

In the second period, the hosts scored early again thanks to efforts by Wulf for her fifth score of the season. Wulf’s initial shot was denied by Bowdoin’s goalie, but the rebound found her thanks to a pass by Jackson. Wulf would not be denied again, giving Middlebury a 2–0 cushion.

The Polar Bears had a few opportunities in the third stanza, but Neubeurger denied every shot that came her way. Middlebury completed the trifecta on a power-play opportunity. Marotta, who was named Nescac Player of the Week, assisted by Winslow found the back of the net to give Middlebury the 3-0 lead with two minutes left in the contest.

Bowdoin could not muster a single score all weekend, as Middlebury extended its streak to 240:04 straight minutes without allowing a goal. The Panthers have gotten on a roll, going 7–0–1 in their last eight games. They’ve outscored their opponents 29–4 over that span by playing some of their best hockey of the season.

“The Bowdoin sweep was big,” Wulf said. “Any time you get 4 points against a NESCAC team at home is huge. We are focused on playing our best hockey and bringing it every game. One of our goals for the second half of the season was to be more consistent, and I think we are doing better with that. We know every team we play from here on out is good, so we have to be ready and come out ready to go. The four shutouts have been awesome. It’s a testament to our team defense, our kill shots, and our goalies, who have been unbelievable.”

Team captain Hlinka echoed her teammate’s sentiments, “It feels awesome to have the win streak, but it feels even better to have played a competitive and physical team this past weekend and to come out on top. I think the fact that we’re in the back half of our season is a large factor. We know we only have a certain amount of games left to play with each other and we’re trying to make the most of it.”

The Panthers head to Hamilton next weekend Friday and Saturday, Jan. 26 and 27., in an opportunity to knock off the Continentals, who are atop the Nescac standings with a 7–1 record. Middlebury stands right behind Hamilton in second-place, with a 6–1–1 record in the conference, and a 10–3–1 record overall.

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Women’s Hockey Sweeps Bowdoin