January 11, 2010

The Panther women's hockey team had a busy return from the break, finishing up the Panther/Cardinal Classic last week before heading to Connecticut for a pair of NESCAC road games.

In a tournament featuring winners of all eight Division III national champions in tournament history, Middlebury hosted the fifth annual Panther/Cardinal Classic at Kenyon Arena. Elmira ('02, '03) and Middlebury ('04, '05, '06) met in the first game on Sunday morning, with Plattsburgh ('07, '08) and Amherst ('09) meeting in the second match-up. All four teams were ranked in the top five nationally: Plattsburgh (1), Amherst (2), Middlebury (3), Elmira (5).

Elmira took a 1-0 lead in the first period with a power play goal at the 13:35 mark. Jamie Kivi sent the puck in from the point, as Caitlin Metcalf finished off a short rebound in front.

Middlebury had a pair of great chances to score in the second period, as junior Anna McNally (St. Paul, Minn.) was denied on an open break-in with a nice glove save from Lauren Sullivan. Sophomore Maggie Melberg (Woody Creek, Colo.) was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway attempt, after blocking a shot from the point and winning a race to the puck. The Panthers finally broke through at 10:56 as senior Ashley Bairos (Van Nuys, Calif.) finished off a loose puck on the power play, after a shot had been saved. The Soaring Eagles had an opportunity to regain the lead with 1:30 left in the second, but Jillayne DeBus was stopped by junior Alexi Bloom (Highland Park, Ill.) on a breakaway. Elmira did enter the second intermission with a 2-1 lead, after a great redirection from Karen Colehour on a feed from Metcalf for a power play goal at 19:30.

Middlebury tied the game 2:25 into the third period, when first-year player Madison Styrbicki (Edina, Minn.) ripped a shot from the top of the zone after a pass from first-year player Lauren Greer (N. Hampton, N.H.) for a power play goal. Elmira had two power play opportunities in the period, but the best chance to score came from Bairos of Middlebury, who was stopped on breakaway at the 8:30 mark.

Elmira went on the power play 58 seconds into overtime, but was unable to muster up any quality chances. Just 14 seconds after the power play expired, Metcalf made a quick feed from the goal line to Alex Bresler in the slot, who buried the game-winner with a quick one-timer at the 3:12 mark of overtime. Sullivan made 19 saves in goal to earn the win, while Bloom made 20 stops for the Panthers.

Plattsburgh's Megan DiJulio tipped in a blast from Erika Shaubel on the power play to give the second-ranked Cardinals a 4-1 win over Middlebury in the third-place. Plattsburgh (8-1) added a pair of empty-netters in the victory.

Plattsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the first period, when Stephanie Moberg scored her ninth goal of the season at the 11:33 mark. Senior Lani Wright (Reading, Mass.) had lost her stick moments before, as Moberg scored with a backhander from the low slot. Wright kept it a 1-0 game late in the period, with a big pad save on a Plattsburgh attempt. The Cardinals controlled much of the tempo in the first period, owning a 19-4 shots advantage.

Middlebury picked it up a notch in the second period, with some good scoring opportunities. The Panthers were unable to take advantage of a pair of power play chances, entering the third period with a 1-0 deficit.

Middlebury kept up the pressure in the third, tying the game with a power play goal at the 6:52 mark. Styrbicki blasted a shot from the blue line that was tipped in by junior Julia Ireland (Greenwich, Conn.) for her third tally of the season.

DiJulio scored the game-winner at 17:26, before adding an empty-net goal. Brittany Meade also scored on an empty net with 28 seconds left to make it a 4-1 final.

Mandy Mackrell made 18 saves in goal to earn the win, while Wright made 31 stops for the Panthers. DiJulio earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, as did Styrbicki.

Trinity's Kim Weiss scored the game-winning goal on a penalty shot 1:39 into overtime to lead the Bantams to a 2-1 victory over Middlebury on Friday. Trinity, ranked No. 8 in the nation, improves to 8-1-2 overall and 3-1-2 in the NESCAC with its fifth win in a row and its first-ever win against Middlebury in 21 tries, while the No. 5-ranked Panthers fall to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the league with their third consecutive defeat.

Trinity was awarded a penalty shot when a Middlebury player covered the puck in her own goalie's crease, and Weiss deked several times before depositing her shot top shelf over the right shoulder of Wright.

The Bantams opened the scoring in the first period when Weiss centered a pass that was knocked away by a Middlebury player directly onto the stick of Laura Komarek, who quickly shot into the net. Middlebury evened the score on a trickling shot by Ireland, that stopped Bantam goaltender Isabel Iwachiw's streak of 178 minutes without allowing a goal.

Iwachiw finished with 31 saves and Wright had 24 stops, while both teams came up empty on seven combined power-play opportunities. Middlebury sophomore Grace Waters (Snyder, N.Y.) and Melberg provided assists on the Middlebury goal, as the Panthers outshot Trinity, 32-26, including a 13-6 edge in the second period.

Ending a brief three-game skid this season, all against nationally ranked teams, Middlebury (6-3, 5-1 NESCAC) gradually pulled away from its host Wesleyan (1-9, 0-7) for a 6-0 victory on Saturday. Sophomore Maria Bourdeau (W. Hartford, Conn.) and Greer led the Panthers with a goal and an assist apiece as 11 players contributed to Middlebury's six tallies. The win kept the Panthers unbeaten streak intact vs. Wesleyan as Middlebury has never lost (40-0-3) in the 43 meetings of the teams dating back to 1979.

It took the Panthers 15:04 to get on the board in the first period as McNally did the honors with her team-leading eighth goal of the season. She followed up her own shot from the right side which was stopped by Cardinal goalie Ashleigh Corvi (49 saves) and put home the rebound. That was all the scoring during the opening period.

A power-play goal, one of two on the day by Middlebury, at 9:45 of the second upped the margin to 2-0. Once again, it was a rebound which Ireland shot in from the right side for her fifth seasonal goal after an initial shot by rookie Heather Marrison (Brewster, N.Y.) was saved by Corvi. Classmate Maggie Woodward (Dover, N.H.) made it a 3-0 game at 14:48 as she found a wide-open net in front of her from eight feet after a shot from the left side found its way through a crowd. Wesleyan scored its lone goal at 16:03 from Leah Coe, her first of the campaign, on a flip from the point after she got a drop pass from Julia Mulhern while Wesleyan was on a power-play.

The third period was a 3-0 frame for the Panthers with Melberg, Bourdeau and Greer all finding the net. Melberg's was a power-play marker and Greer's came on a nifty redirect from the left circle with just two seconds remaining.

With a 55-11 edge in shots, Middlebury controlled the game's tempo. Bloom made 10 saves in lowering her goals-against average to a mere 1.73.
. Women's hockey record: 6-3
. Up next: 1/12 vs. UMass.-Boston - 4:30, 1/5 vs. Amherst - 7:00, 1/16 vs. Amherst - 3:00