March 5, 2012

Junior Lauren Greer (North Hampton, N.H.) scored the game-winner 6:17 into overtime to lift Middlebury to its seventh NESCAC title with a 1-0 victory over Amherst. The Panthers (21-3-3) receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the Jeffs move to 21-5-1. This was the fourth NESCAC Championship meeting between the schools, with three of the games going into overtime. Amherst won in overtime in ’07, Middlebury took the ’09 game in OT, with the Panthers earning a 4-3 victory a year ago.

Neither team found the back of the net in the first period, with Middlebury holding a 9-3 shots advantage. The Panthers had a pair of power play opportunities in the period, but were not able to get on the board.

Following a failed Middlebury power play at the 5:03 mark of the second period, senior Maggie Melberg (Woody Creek, Colo.) had a quick shot from close-range denied by Sinead Murphy (24 saves). Middlebury nearly broke the scoreless tie at 11:05, as sophomore Madeline Joyce (Boxborough, Mass.) carried the puck into the zone on the right side. She let go a hard wrister from the top of the left face-off circle that beat Murphy but clanked the crossbar. The Panthers had another great chance in the last minute, but a shot from Melberg after a feed from first-year player Hannah Bielawski (Evanston, Ill.) in the slot was saved by Murphy. After being outshot 9-3 in the first period, Amherst returned the favor in the second.

Josie Fisher made a great move for Amherst and cut to the slot early in the second, with her backhander saved by first-year netminder Annabelle Jones (Homer, N.Y.) (16 saves). Amherst had two more big chances midway through the second period with a blast from Tori Salmon hitting a teammate in front and a shot from Megan Doyen in the high slot going just wide at 13:40.

The Panthers put on some pressure in the final five minutes of the period, with some good looks. Greer’s shot at 14:04 from the left wing hit the post, while two attempts by senior Grace Waters (Snyder, N.Y.) were denied one minute later. Senior Maria Bourdeau (W. Hartford, Conn.) had a shot just miss the post with 3:05 remaining, while sophomore Sara Ugalde (Burlington, Conn.)  had a good look at her own rebound with 1:15 left to play. The Panthers went on a power play with 28 seconds left in the third, but could not take advantage as it was killed off early in overtime. Prior to overtime, Erin Babineau had a great look shorthanded with 20 seconds remaining, but the shot went into Jones’ chest for the save.

Middlebury nearly won the game 3:20 into the extra session, but a shot by rookie Katie Sullivan (Bethesda, Md.) was denied by Murphy after a nice dish from first-year player Emily Fluke (Sandwich, Mass.).

Greer’s game-winner came as she skated into the zone and let a blast go that was partially saved by Murphy. The puck dropped to the ice and slowly trickled across the goal line to give the Panthers the title. The goal tied Greer for the team-lead with her 13th of the season.

Middlebury advanced to the title game with a 4-1 win over Trinity. Middlebury took a 1-0 lead 11:17 into the first period with the eighth of the season from Waters. Melberg carried the puck in on the right wing, crossed to Fluke on the left, who found Waters in the slot for the 1-0 lead.

Trinity tied the game at 15:14 when Abby Ostrom fed a pass up to Lucy Robinson who broke in and scored her fifth of the year. The Panthers were on a power play for the final 4:28 of the period, including 1:57 of five-on-three play, but could not regain the lead. The period ended with shots tied at 10-10.

Fluke put on a great move on a breakaway early in the second period, but was denied by Trinity netminder Alexa Pujol (19 saves). Bantam Lindsey Weiner had a great shot from close range at 4:38, but was stopped by Jones (27).

The Panthers took a 2-1 lead at the 5:47 mark when Bourdeau’s dump in from the blue line slipped past Pujol for her third of the season. Middlebury had a couple more great chances in the period, with Ugalde denied at 8:05 and Waters being stopped driving in from the right side at 16:48.

The third period saw both teams with solid opportunities to score on both ends of the ice. Pujol made a great save on a redirect from Bielawski after a nice feed from junior Maggie Woodward (Dover, N.H.) at the 8:47 mark. The Bantams had nice chances at 11:30 and 12:12, but Jones denied Payson Sword and Chelsea Campbell from close range to keep it a 2-1 game. The Panthers had an opportunity to add to their lead at 13:01, but Greer was denied by a diving glove stop from Pujol.

Middlebury gained some breathing room at the 17:25 mark, with Greer netting her 12th of the season. Ugalde sent a puck from the left point down low to Sullivan who quickly found Greer for the redirect. The Panthers sealed the game with 1:43 remaining when Joyce netted her sixth of the year, this one coming from the blue line with an empty net.
• Women’s hockey record: 21-3-3
• Up next: 3/10 – Plattsburgh (NCAA Quarterfinals) – 7:00