The Middlebury women’s ice hockey team flew to Wisconsin last week to compete in the “Frozen Four” of the NCAA tournament. Saturday, March 15th, the team claimed a 4-1 victory over previously undefeated Plattsburgh Sate, advancing Middlebury to the national championship game on Saturday, March 16. Unfortunately, Sunday did not conclude in the same fashion, as the Panthers fell to Elmira 1-0. The Soaring Eagles scored the game’s lone goal 12:32 into the second period and the Panthers, despite attempting 30 shots on goal could not beat Elmira goaltender Lauren Sullivan, who earned her 11th shutout of the season, stymieing Middlebury’s championship aspirations.
In addition to sending the Panthers to the national championship game, Friday’s victory over Plattsburgh State also avenged the team’s Jan. 30 loss to the Cardinals in the regular season. The game remained scoreless for the first 10 minutes until senior forward Lauren Greer ’13 tapped in the opening goal. The Panther goal came during a power play and was assisted by Hannah Bielawski ’15. The score remained 1-0 for the remainder of the period despite six penalties between the two teams.
Plattsburgh opened the second period with a hard shot on net that almost tied the game 34 seconds into the period. However, the Panthers answered as Emily Fluke ’15 scored her 17th goal of the season at the 3:40 mark. The goal was unassisted as Fluke had the puck to herself when she nailed the wrist shot and brought the game to 2-1. The second period finished 2-0, however, the roles were reversed as Plattsburgh had four more shots on net than Middlebury and tallied up two more penalties for their squad. In the third period, Plattsburgh scored their first goal of the game at the 3:07 mark. Molly Downey ’13 then brought back the two-goal lead with an unassisted goal at the 17:25 mark. With less than 20 seconds left in the game, Maggie Woodward ’13 proved that Middlebury was not content with a 3-1 game and scored her second goal of the season on Plattsburgh’s open net.
Throughout the game, goalie Annabelle Jones had a total of 20 saves — two in the first period, nine in the second and nine in the third. Plattsburgh totaled three more penalties over Middlebury’s six.
On Sunday, March 16, the Panthers sought to earn their fourth NCAA championship as they stood up against Elmira. Despite taking 30 shots on goal — the Panthers outshot Elmira by four shots over the course of the game — and solid play from all three shifts, the Panthers fell 1-0 to the Soaring Eagles.
Saturday’s national championship game marked the fifth time that Middlebury has appeared in the NCAA title game. The Panthers finished the 2012-13 season with a 20-8-2 record.
Elmira, who Middlebury beat twice in the regular season, edged out the Panthers to win the trophy by scoring the game’s only goal.
The first period was scoreless as the teams combined to take just six shots on net, failing to test either Jones or Elmira golatender Lauren Sullivan.
The second period looked similar until Elmira’s Taylor Steadman scored at the 12:26 mark. Steadman cleaned up a rebound off a shot from teammate Sam Curk, and fired a shot past Jones, who appeared to have trouble tracking the puck.
The game started to get physical as Middlebury tallied up two penalties in the second period and Elmira one — the Soaring Eagles’ fourth of the game. And despite a power play opportunity and 13 shots on net, Middlebury was unable to connect for a goal and the scored remained 1-0.
The Panthers’ inability to find the back of the net continued throughout the third period and the Panthers fell just short of a fourth national championship.
“The weekend was a whirlwind,” said Heather Marrison ’13. “I think everyone is extremely happy with the result and obviously we would have loved to win it all, but we are excited because we accomplished a lot to get there. Beating previously undefeated Plattsburgh was definitely one of my favorite moments in the season.
Middlebury held a 30-26 advantage in shots on net in the loss. Elmira had eight penalties, while Middlebury only had four, meaning that the Panthers had four extra minutes of power play, which proved unsuccessful.
Marrison was named to the all-tournament team while Madison Styrbicki ’13 earned All-American honors as both capped off tremendous senior seasons.
“Overall, I think that it was a great way to end the season and is a feeling we will hold on to for a while,” said Marrison.