March 7, 2011

Middlebury won its sixth NESCAC Championship as the Panthers (21-4-1) held off a late flurry by Amherst to pick up a 4-3 win in the title game played in Kenyon Arena. The Panthers receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will host Manhattanville in an NCAA Quarterfinal game on Saturday, March 12th at 7:00.

Middlebury took a 1-0 lead 4:27 into the game with a power play goal. First-year player Madeline Joyce (Boxborough, Mass.) netted her fifth of the season, finishing off a flurry of shots in front.

            The Panthers were awarded a penalty shot at the 3 :34 mark of the second period, after a delay of game penalty on the Jeffs. Junior Maggie Melberg (Woody Creek, Colo.) took the shot and was denied by Caroline Hu with a pad save on her backhander. Amherst tied the game at 1-1 at the 9:01 mark with a power play tally of their own. Geneva Lloyd made a nice pass from behind the net to Ellen Swiontkowski in front, for her 10th of the year.

Middlebury scored three goals in a 5:04 span in the second period to take a commanding 4-1 advantage. Melberg won a face-off back to sophomore Heather Marrison (Brewster, N.Y.) at the left point, with her shot getting past a screened Hu for the 2-1 lead at 13:58. Rookie Sarah Ugalde (Burlingame, Conn.) intercepted a pass and scored from the right side with a wrister into the top left corner of the net for her 12th of the season. Joyce found cutting sophomore Maggie Woodward (Dover, N.H.), who scored her fifth of the season from her knees to make it a 4-1 game with 58 seconds left in the second.

Amherst made it a two-goal game at 11:38 of the third, when Stephanie Clegg scored from the left face-off dot. The Jeffs cut the lead to 4-3 with 4:10 remaining, as Lloyd scored on her third attempt after her first two shots were denied by senior Alexi Bloom (Highland Park, Ill.) on the power play. Amherst kept coming with pressure, going on a power play with just 56 seconds left to play. The Jeffs pulled Hu moments later, looking for a six-on-four goal to tie the game. Middlebury held strong, giving up just one shot on goal late as the Panthers held on for the victory.

            Amherst held a slight 25-24 shots advantage in the game, with Bloom making 22 saves and Hu stopping 20.

In the semifinals, Bloom improved on her school single-season record with her 10th shutout (17 saves) of the season as Middlebury topped Bowdoin, 4-0.

The first period saw Middlebury with two missed power play opportunities, ending the period with a 9-7 shots advantage. Bowdoin had its best chance to score at the 16:30 mark, but Kayte Holtz was robbed from the slot on a great glove save from Bloom.

The Panthers struck just 3:23 into the second period, with Marrison netting her fourth of the season. Senior Julia Ireland (Greenwich, Conn.) worked the puck behind the net, before finding Marrison in the high slot for a quick wrister. Middlebury scored again at the 9:27 mark, when rookie classmate Jennifer Krakower (Montreal, Que.), slid a quick pass to Melberg for her fifth of the year. The Panthers netted their third of the period with 5:41 remaining as Woodward took advantage of a turnover and scored with a wrister breaking to the goal. Bowdoin netminder Tara Connolly (34:19, 3 GA, 16 saves) was replaced by Kayla Lessard following the goal.

The lead grew to 4-0 at the 5:51 mark of the third period, with a power play tally from sophomore Lauren Greer (N. Hampton, N.H.). Sophomore Madison Styrbicki (Edina, Minn.) earned her team-leading 16th assist of the season, as her shot from the point was saved by Lessard (12 saves). Greer pounced on the rebound and potted her 12th of the year, tying her for the team-lead with Ireland.

            Middlebury ended the game with a 33-17 shots advantage, earning its 12th win in the last 13 games.
• Women’s hockey record: 21-4-1
• Up next: 3/12 vs. Manhattanville – 7:00 (NCAA Quarterfinals)