Middlebury Falls to Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh Sneaks Past Women’s Hockey

The women’s hockey team played Plattsburgh St. evenly in the first two periods, but the Cardinals edged past the Panthers with two third period goals to win the NCAA quarterfinal matchup 3–1. The defeat ended another wildly successful season for Middlebury, in which the Panthers won their third straight Nescac championship and won 20 games for the third time in four years — excluding last season when they won 19 games.

Will Costello

The women’s hockey team played Plattsburgh St. evenly in the first two periods, but the Cardinals edged past the Panthers with two third period goals to win the NCAA quarterfinal matchup 3–1. The defeat ended another wildly successful season for Middlebury, in which the Panthers won their third straight Nescac championship and won 20 games for the third time in four years — excluding last season when they won 19 games.

By SEBASTIAN SANCHEZ

The women’s hockey team saw their season come to a close last Saturday, March 10, dropping the NCAA quarterfinal game to top-ranked, four-time defending national champion, Plattsburgh State. The game was played intensely and with a lot of grit, as both teams battled for the right to play in the Frozen Four.

The opening period gave Middlebury some opportunities to get ahead, starting with a power play just a minute into the game. Madie Leidt ’21 and Jenna Marotta ’19 led the charge, taking several shots on goal, but missing wide.

Later in the period, Maddie Winslow ’18 had the best opportunity, beating her defender on the power-play, breaking free of the pack and sped toward the goal. Her shot, however, sailed wide, unable to take the lead. Both teams had another power-play opportunity, but neither squad was able to execute and the first stanza ended scoreless.

The Cardinals scored at the 14:34 mark of the second quarter capitalizing on the confusion of an ended power-play. While Lin Han ’20 blocked a shot from the right side, the rebound found its way to Plattsburgh’s Erin McArdle, who blasted it through the five-hole for a 1–0 lead.

The Panthers answered three minutes later with a power-play goal, set up beautifully by Marotta who sent the puck to Leidt. After receiving the puck, Leidt fired the shot, which was tipped in by Winslow for her 12th goal of the season.

Tied 1–1, Middlebury gave it their all in the third period, of which would be the last of their season and for the class of 2018, the last of their careers. Just a minute in, the Panthers had a power-play chance thanks to a shot by Leidt, but was stuffed by the Cardinal goalie.

Five minutes later, Plattsburgh went on top for good, scoring at the end of a power-play. Han turned the first attempt away, but the puck rolled loose on the ice and a Cardinal fathered the rebound and scored up high from the low slot.

Down 2–1, the Panthers ramped up the pressure, resorting to pulling Han with 2:12 remaining on the clock. With a six-on-five advantage, Middlebury could not find a quality shot and the Plattsburgh sealed the victory with an empty net score for the final score of 3–1.

This season, the Panthers won their third championship in just as many years, a feat no other Nescac women’s hockey team has accomplished. Middlebury also graduates a core group of girls who have had an invaluable presence on the team and have helped lead the Panthers to three consecutive championships. Senior captain Janka Hlinka ’18, goaltender Julie Neuberger ’18 and defender Hayley LaFontaine ’18, along with Winslow, Jessica Young ’18 and Elizabeth Wulf  ’18 played significant roles throughout their four years.

Winslow had a phenomenal four years, playing in 114 games and boasting an impressive 124 points with 54 goals and 70 assists. Winslow was named Player of the Year in 2016, becoming the sixth player in history to win the award.

Jessica Young ’18, who was named the 2015 Nescac Rookie of the Year, earned her fourth All-Nescac honor spot and finished her career with just as impressive stats as Winslow: 132 points on 62 goals and 70 assists. Young looked back on the last game, reflecting on the sport she has played her entire life.

“Playing in my last collegiate game was tough to say the least,” said an emotional Young. “My heart just sank as the last seconds ticked off the clock and it was crazy to get back to the locker room and realize that I was taking my jersey off for the last time.

“I’ve been playing hockey since I was four so this whole retirement thing is going to be interesting. I absolutely think the underclassmen will step right up and take over where we left off. Those juniors are going to set their own Nescac hockey record, first grade to ever win a Nescac championship all four years of their career.”

Elizabeth Wulf ’18 finishes her career as a workhorse, starting in 114 games in her career and racking up 64 points over her four years, comprised of 27 goals and 37 assist. Wulf had a lot to say in reflecting on the final game of her career.

 

“Playing in my last collegiate hockey game was very weird,” Wulf said. “It was in the back of my mind that it could be our last one, but I think we believed so much that we could win the game and beat Plattsburgh that when they scored the empty net goal to go up by two with 12 seconds left and then final buzzer sounded, I was in shock. It honestly felt surreal.

“Obviously a lot of emotions were running through my body throughout the game, mostly adrenaline,” Wulf continued. “When the game ended, there were a lot of tears and disappointment. I honestly still can’t believe it’s over.”

Regardless of the way things turned out on Saturday, Wulf, her teammates, and especially her fellow seniors had to acknowledge and appreciate their accomplishments.

“While we were definitely all upset at the time,” said Wulf, “taking a step back, I am so proud of what our team accomplished this year and how much better we got throughout the season. It’s crazy that our hockey careers are over, but I would not have wanted to play with anyone else besides our senior class these past four years, and I would not have wanted to end my career with any other team than this one.

“Although we did not achieve our goal of winning a national championship, to make history and win three-straight Nescac Championships and also make NCAAs all four years is something to be extreme proud of.”

Wulf also spoke to how much optimism the program has to have looking forward.

“I am confident that the returners and newcomers will be able to continue the program’s success,” said Wulf. “We were a young team this year, so they will only get better with more experience. It’s weird to think we won’t be playing with them next year, but I can’t wait to follow and watch the team next year! It’s been an honor and privilege to play for this program, and I couldn’t have asked for a better last four years of my hockey career.”

The team will miss the class of 2018, but with head coach Bill Mandingo at the helm, the possibilities are endless for this young talented team and it is not crazy to think that the Middlebury Panthers might win the Nescac championship four years in a row.

 

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