Women’s Hockey Clinches Top Seed

Panthers Extend Unbeaten Nescac Stretch to Twelve Games


Emma stapleton

Maddie Winslow ’18 skates towards the Williams goal, looking for a way to beat the Eph netminder on a penalty shot. She did not score, but Middlebury as a team had no trouble scoring in its 4–2 win on Saturday.


The women’s hockey team clinched the first-seed in the Nescac playoffs by tying at Williams 3–3 on Friday, Feb. 16, and dismissing the Ephs from Kenyon Arena 4–2 on Saturday, Feb. 17. These results extended the No. 4 Panthers’ unbeaten streak in the Nescac to 12 games entering the Nescac playoffs, where they will host eighth-seeded Wesleyan in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m.

Middlebury traveled down to Williamstown for the first game of the weekend doubleheader and it was truly a battle. Williams took an early lead in the opening period, making the most of its shots and scoring on its first bid, which was also a power play situation. A shot from the bottom of the left circle ricocheted, but the rebound bounced off Lin Han’s ’20 pads into the back of the net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

Williams’ Anna Fucillo doubled the host’s lead a minute and a half later. But the Panthers cut into the lead on power play goal by Madie Leidt ’21, her tenth goal of the season. Jessica Young ’18 one-timed a cross-ice pass to Leidt who deposited the puck into the back of the net.

In the second stanza, Middlebury evened the score five minutes in. Elizabeth Wulf ’18 broke up a Williams’ breakout attempt, and Sidney Porter ’21 took over from there. Portner carried the puck up the ice, then fired a shot from the top of the circles past the Eph goalie.

The hosts responded quickly and reclaimed the lead within two minutes of Portner’s goal on another power play.

Back-and-forth the game went. With seven minutes left in the third period, the Panthers completed the rally to tie the game at three. After a Panther power play ended, Alexis Ryan ’21 caught the puck and threw it on the ice — at the right point. Maddie Winslow ’18 then picked it up, dangled it between defenders, and tipped it into the net, setting up overtime.

In the extra period, the Panthers took all seven shots in the five-minute span, with Wulf and Leidt both being denied late in fourth period. No one could find a score and the teams finished deadlocked at three goals apiece.

Han finished with 14 saves, while the Panthers put up 39 shots against Williams’ goalie. Although not a loss, Middlebury was not satisfied with Friday’s result against Williams, who entered the weekend doubleheader only 3–5–5 in conference play.

“After the tie, we knew we needed to come out harder and faster right out of the gate on Saturday,” said Julie Neuburger ’18. “Part of why I love playing in the Nescac is because any team can win on any given day. Every game is a battle and when we win, it makes the victories that much more satisfying — especially knowing you had to work really hard to earn them.”

Janka Hlinka continued, “after tying the first game, we had to refocus for Saturday and play the way we knew we were capable of playing. Every game matters and we had to bring a sense of urgency to Saturday’s game.”

The Panthers recognized its six seniors — for their achievements, including two-time Nescac champions — on Saturday, and the outgoing Panthers made sure their last home regular season game was one to remember.

To highlight the special night, Leidt had herself an amazing game, completing a hat trick along with a goal by Young to give the hosts a win over the Ephs.

Middlebury took an early 1–0 lead when Ledit recorded her first score of the night. Katherine Jackson ’19 found Leidt entering the zone. The first-year fired a shot from the top of the left-faceoff circle, which bounded off the crossbar and into the back of the net.

Williams had no real opportunity in the opening period, as Neuburger simply denied all shots, and the hosts headed into the second stanza holding on to a one goal advantage.

Williams erased the deficit in the opening 17 seconds of the second period, sneaking the puck past Neuburger off a scramble for a loose puck.

Young, however, responded for the Panthers, redirecting a shot by Leidt into the back of the net for her team-leading 15th tally of the season on a five-on-four power play advantage.

Young and Leidt found themselves in tandem again in the following period. On Middlebury’s third power play opportunity six minutes into the third period, Young found Liedt from the left point, who one-timed the puck into the back of the net for her second score of the game.

For good measure, Young and Leidt connected one more time, as the first-year notched her first career hat-trick and sealed the deal for Middlebury. Williams scored later in the third period with its goalie pulled, but Middlebury got the 4–2 win.

Neuburger picked up 13 saves, and the offensive unit put 38 shots on goal in Middlebury’s last game of the regular season, an unforgettable way for the Middlebury seniors to go out.

“Senior night was so special,” said Wulf, one of the six seniors. “Our teammates did an amazing job of making it special. We all couldn’t believe the night was already here, but we soaked it all up and enjoyed it as much as we could.

“Starting all the seniors was a moment I’ll never forget, it was awesome. It was definitely an emotional night, but we were so happy to come away with a win. It was a night I’ll remember forever, and I would not have wanted to celebrate it with anyone other than my five other classmates.”

Actually, the seniors and their teammates are not done in Kenyon Arena yet this season. They will host Wesleyan on Saturday, Feb. 24, and, if they win, will host the Nescac semifinals and finals the following weekend. Ranked fourth nationally, Middlebury will almost assuredly get to host at least one game in the NCAA tournament as well, not to look ahead too far.

First, Middlebury plays Wesleyan, whom the Panthers beat twice earlier in the season, 3–0 and 4–0. The Cardinals enter the quarterfinal matchup with a 2–10–4 Nescac record, but earned a spot in the playoffs by upsetting third-seeded in the last weekend of the regular season.