March 23, 2009

The Middlebury College women's hockey team earned its 20th win of the season as the Panthers picked up a 3-2 overtime victory over Wisconsin-River Falls in the NCAA third place game played on campus. With just 12 seconds left in overtime, sophomore Heidi Woodworth (Princeton, N.J.) sent a puck in from the right point, that was deflected in by rookie Grace Waters (Snyder, N.Y.) for the game-winner. Middlebury now has 14 straight seasons with 19 or more victories. The Panthers end the year with a 20-4-4 mark, while the Falcons finish at 20-7-3. All five goals in Middlebury's semifinal loss to Amherst came on the power play, while all four goals in regulation were also scored on the power play in the consolation game.

UWRF had a golden opportunity midway through the first period, but the puck slipped off the stick of Ashly Berner as she broke in all alone on junior Lani Wright (Reading, Mass.). The Panthers had a breakaway of their own later in the period, as junior Heather McCormack (Rowley, Mass.) was stopped by a pad save from Melissa Deardofff.

The Falcons took a 1-0 lead at 10:33 with a power play goal. Kayleigh Bell sent the puck in from the left point, before it bounced and found its way to Stefanie Schmitz, who quickly slid a pass to Abby Sunderman for the goal. The Panthers tied the game with a power play tally of their own at the 15:45 mark. Senior Molly Vitt (Kenilworth, Ill.) sent the puck in from the right point, before it was tipped by McCormack and finished off on the far side by sophomore Julia Ireland (Greenwich, Conn). Middlebury turned up the offense in the latter part of the period, heading into the locker room with a 15-6 shots advantage.

Ally Foley had a great chance to give UWRF the lead 6:00 into the second period, but was denied on a breakaway by Wright. The Falcons kept battling and took a 2-1 lead at 8:01 as Stefanie Schmitz set up Heather Horgen at the point for a power play goal. UWRF kept up the pressure and sent several shots in on Wright in the next five minutes of play, but the score remained at 2-1. The Falcons kept coming, but Wright stopped a pair of breakaways, including one on Emma Nordness with 1:30 left in the period.

Middlebury tied the game 6:03 into the third period as Vitt took a feed from senior Annmarie Cellino (W. Seneca, N.Y.) before roofing a shot from the left face-off circle. The power play goal was the sixth power play tally of the year for Vitt. Middlebury rookie Maggie Melberg (Woody Creek, Colo.) was stopped on a breakaway by Deardorff, before Wright returned the favor on the other end with three straight stellar stops. UWRF had one final chance to win the game in regulation, but a power play that began at 15:10 was not successful. After being outshot 8-3 in the third period, Middlebury ended regulation with a 24-22 shots advantage and held a 28-24 lead advantage in the game. Middlebury's Wright (22 saves) and UWRF's Deardorff (25 saves) were both stellar between the pipes.

The Panthers were forced to play in the third-place game after suffering a 3-2 loss to Amherst on Friday night. The Jeffs took advantage of a power play 5:20 into the game as Tarasai Karega scored with a backhander after a nifty move in the crease. The tally was her 10th of the season as the Jeffs took an early 1-0 lead. Amherst struck again on the power play late in the period, taking a 2-0 advantage at the 17:00 mark. Julia Koch took a pass from Karega at the right face-off circle and snapped a shot past a screened sophomore Alexi Bloom (Highland Park, Ill.). Amherst ended the period with a slim 6-4 shots advantage.

Middlebury failed on its first power play of the second period, before cutting the lead in half with a power play tally at the 4:00 mark. Vitt netted her 11th of the season as she scored from the far side on a rebound after junior Ashley Bairos' (Van Nuys, Calif.) shot was saved by Krystyn Elek. Amherst answered with its third power play goal of the night, as Megan Curry converted a quick crossing pass from Karega for her seventh of the year at 12:06. Very few shots were taken through the first two periods, with each team totaling a dozen on goal.

Middlebury had an unsuccessful power play in the third before making it a one-goal game with a goal from Cellino on the power play at the 12:35 mark. McCormack made a nice feed to Cellino, who netted the 65th of her career with a snapshot to the top left corner of the net. Amherst suffered its only failed power play of the night later in the period, as they went 3-4 in the game. The Panthers threatened late, including 1:38 of play with their netminder pulled, but could not score the equalizer.

Elek made 17 saves for the win, while Bloom made 15 stops on the night. Middlebury held a slim 19-18 shots advantage in the contest.
. Women's hockey final record: 20-4-4