February 16, 2009

Sophomore Anna McNally (St. Paul, Minn.) earned a hat-trick in the second period and rookie Grace Waters (Snyder, N.Y.) added three assists as fifth ranked Middlebury (14-3-4) beat Connecticut College (8-11-1) 7-1 Sunday afternoon.

Middlebury took a 1-0 lead with a goal from senior Erika Nakamura (Boston, Mass.) at 8:58 of the first period. The Panthers added two scores in the opening 4:05 of the second by sophomore Julia Ireland (Greenwich, Conn.) and McNally to build a 3-0 lead.

Ashleigh Kowtoniuk accounted for the Connecticut College offense with a breakaway goal to make it a 3-1 game. McNally scored twice more, the second on the power play, earning a hat-trick as she gave the Panthers a 5-1 lead after two.

Sophomore Andrea Buono (Ashburnham, Mass.) and junior Heather McCormack (Rowley, Mass.) added third period goals to make it a 7-1 final. Sophomore Nora Bergman (Concord, Mass.) dished out two assists in the game, as junior Lani Wright (Reading, Mass.) stopped 21 Camel shots in the victory. Lauren Mellen had 37 saves for the hosts.

The previous day, the seventh-ranked Amherst College women's ice hockey team earned a 5-0 victory over fifth-ranked Middlebury at Orr Rink to secure the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NESCAC Championship. The Lord Jeffs have earned hosting rights in the conference tournament for the first time in program history.

With the win, Amherst improved to 38-0-7 in its last 45 games against NESCAC teams, with its last loss coming at Middlebury on Dec. 2, 2006 by a 1-0 score. Middlebury dropped to 13-3-4 overall and 9-2-2 in the conference standings.

The first prime scoring chance of the game came with 14:25 remaining in the first period when Amherst Tarasai Karega and Kate Dennett started a 2-on-1 breakaway from the midline, but they could not get off a shot. Nearly two minutes later, goaltender Krystyn Elek made a save on a point-blank Middlebury shot to keep the game scoreless.

The game's first goal came thirty seconds after Elek's point-blank save when the Jeffs were able to find the back of the net after a scramble in front of the goal. Stephanie Clegg was credited with the goal with assists going to Anna MacLean and Molly Malloy.

The Jeffs made it a 2-0 game eight minutes into the second period when Karega fed Courtney Hanlon for her team-leading 11th goal of the season. Megan Curry nearly made it a 3-0 game four minutes later when she beat the Panther goalie, but she got tripped up and was unable to finish. The teams headed into the second intermission with the hosts holding a 2-0 advantage.

It took only three minutes of third-period action for Amherst to strike again, as Dennett scored on a power play to give her team a 3-0 lead. Lindsey Harrington recorded an assist for the 92nd point of her career and the 17th of the season, with Julia Koch also getting credit for the helper.

Five minutes later, Middlebury senior Annemarie Cellino (W. Seneca, N.Y.) received a pass from behind the midline and stormed toward the goal with an Amherst defender nipping at her heels. The heavy pressure prevented Cellino from getting off a hard shot, as Elek managed to sprawl out and poke the puck away to preserve the shutout.

Amherst added an insurance tally with 3:08 remaining in regulation to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Middlebury sophomore Alexi Bloom (Highland Park, Ill.) made a save on a wraparound attempt but could not stop the rebound, as Dennett poked the puck in for a power play goal.

The Jeffs had one more goal left in them as Karega brought the home crowd to its feet with just 35 ticks left on the clock. The senior drifted in from the left wing and ripped a wrist shot high and to the near post, and the puck crossed the goal line for Karega's 56th career score.

The Jeffs out-shot the Panthers by a 29-22 margin, as Bloom (6-3-2) made 24 saves and Elek (8-3-0) stopped 22 shots to earn the shutout. Amherst is now 3-0-3 against Middlebury in its last six meetings after the Panthers won the first 18 games of the rivalry's history.

Earlier in the week, Middlebury won for the seventh time in its last nine games as the Panthers earned their seventh consecutive win over Williams, defeating the Ephs 3-0 in Kenyon Arena.

The first period ended with Middlebury holding an 8-3 shots advantage, going 0/2 on the power play. The second period also saw few scoring opportunities for both teams until the final minute. Middlebury broke through on its fourth power play of the night, as Waters scored her eighth goal of the season. The goal came on a rebound after a shot from Nakamura was saved. Williams almost tied the game on the other end in the waning seconds of the period, but Middlebury sophomore Heidi Woodworth (Princeton, N.J.) blocked Tracey Ferriter's shot on an open net.

The Panthers took a 2-0 lead 8:45 into the third period with their second power play goal of the game. Nakamura earned the first assist once again, with a nice feed from behind the net to Bergman, who finished from the low slot for her sixth of the year.

Middlebury threatened again late in the period, but Sara Plunkett made a pair of nice saves for the Ephs to keep it a 2-0 game. Williams pulled Plunkett with 1:10 remaining, but Middlebury sealed the game with an empty-netter from rookie Maggie Melberg (Woody Creek, Calif.). Nakamura earned her third assist of the night on the tally to give her 13 on the year.

Wright made 17 saves in goal to earn her first shutout of the season, while Plunkett ended the night with 25 stops for the Ephs.
. Women's hockey record: 14-3-4
. Up next: 2/20 vs. Wesleyan - 7:00, 2/21 vs. Hamilton - 3:00