January 17, 2011

            The Panther women’s hockey team used three third-period goals to maintain sole possession of first place in the NESCAC women’s ice hockey standings, as the visiting Panthers earned a 3-0 win over Amherst College Friday evening at Orr Rink.

            First-year Sara Ugalde (Burlington, Conn.) broke the scoreless tie 5:35 into the final period and classmate Jennifer Krakower (Montreal, Que.) made it 2-0 less than seven minutes later to break the game open. Sophomore Maggie Woodward (Dover, N.H.) added the finishing touch on an empty-net goal with 0.9 seconds remaining in the game.

            Amherst out-shot Middlebury in the first (13-3) and second (10-7) periods, but things drastically changed when the Panthers put 21 shots on net in the final 20 minutes while allowing the hosts to put only four shots on target.

            Friday’s result brought Amherst’s 17-game unbeaten streak at home to a halt (14-0-3), as the Jeffs had not lost at Orr Rink since the Panthers earned a 4-3 overtime win on Mar. 8, 2009 in the NESCAC title game. Middlebury leads the all-time series, 20-5-4, but Amherst holds a 5-2-4 edge in the past 11 meetings.

         The teams combined for four penalties in the opening 20 minutes but could not break the scoreless tie thanks to strong goaltending. The best save of the first period came at 11:29 when Amherst’s Geneva Lloyd  ripped a shot that was knocked away by Middlebury senior netminder Alexi Bloom (Highland Park, Ill.), who would turn away 13 shots in the frame. Stephanie Clegg was there for a nice rebound attempt, but Bloom came up with a spectacular glove save to deny the Lord Jeffs of what looked like a sure thing.

            Amherst out-shot Middlebury by a 10-7 margin and twice drew a collective sigh from the home crowd on near misses in the second period, but the Lord Jeffs could not find their first goal as the teams headed into the second intermission locked at 0-0.

            The third period looked like a different game altogether. Things got started for the Panthers when they sent the puck in from the right side to Ugalde, who had been camped out at the post. Ugalde beat Amherst goaltender Caroline Hu to make it a 1-0 game.

            The Jeffs hit the post two minutes later, but the Panthers came right back and continued to pepper Hu with shots. Amherst tri-captain Courtney Hanlon saved a goal when she dove in front of a puck that was headed straight for the back of the net, but Krakower stuck with the play and gave Middlebury its 2-0 lead with 7:35 on the clock. Sophomore (N. Hampton, N.H.) picked up the assist on Krakower’s goal.

            The Panthers had 94 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey late in the third period but did not capitalize, as Amherst’s opponents are now 0-for their last 24 on power play opportunities. With the final seconds ticking away and the game already wrapped up, Woodward put home her empty netter with less than one second to play.

            Bloom finished with 27 saves to improve to 6-1-1 for the Panthers, while Hu stopped 28 shots—18 in the third period—and allowed two goals in falling to 4-3-1.

            The following day, 5th-ranked Amherst  (7-4-2/6-1-1 NESCAC) broke a tie late in the third period for a 2-1 win, handing No. 9 Middlebury (8-3-1/7-1-1) its first conference loss of the season.

            The game started off in nearly identical fashion, with Amherst out-shooting Middlebury 14-5 in shots on net in the opening period. Once again, Hu matched Bloom to post a scoreless first period.

            After killing off a penalty early in the second period, Amherst caught a break 7:48 into the frame on a power play of its own. After working the puck between Emily Vitale and Ashley Salerno near the blue line, Salerno fired a shot into traffic that changed course as it deflected off a Panther defender’s shin guard, beating Bloom. Amherst junior Josie Fisher won’t appear in the box score, but she was present on the crease causing all sorts of problems for Bloom and the Middlebury defense as the goal was scored. Barrett McBride picked up the second assist on the game's first score.

            With 3:10 to play in the second, Middlebury grabbed an equalizer against the run of play. After holding Amherst off in its own zone, the Panthers scored on a scramble in front of the net following a shot that went wide and caromed back towards the goal mouth. Greer scored the equalizer, pushing the puck over Hu’s left leg pad.

            13:20 into the third period, Amherst rookie Courtney Baranek broke free and was hauled down from behind to give the Jeffs a crucial power play. Less than halfway into the power play, Courtney Hanlon scooped up a puck behind the Middlebury net and curled around the net to beat Bloom with the wrap-around for a 2-1 lead. Grabbing the helpers on Hanlon's score were McBride and Ellen Swiontkowski .

            The Hanlon score proved to be the difference in the game, as the Lord Jeffs held off a late push by the Panthers for a second equalizer. Hu and the defense stood strong, as the Amherst goaltender finished the night with 15 saves. Bloom made 25 saves in the loss, just her second defeat of the year.
• Women’s hockey record: 8-3-1
• Up next: 1/18 vs. Holy Cross – 6:00, 1/22 @ Williams – 7:00