Women's Hockey Prepares For Championship Weekend - Watch Live!

March 16, 2009

The Middlebury College women's hockey team will host the eighth-annual NCAA Division III Women's Hockey Championship. The Panthers drew a first-round bye, and will host the semifinals and finals on Friday, March 20th and Saturday, March 21st in Kenyon Arena. This will mark the second time Middlebury has hosted the event, earning a 2-1 win over Wis.-Stevens Point in '04.

Elmira will take on Wisconsin-River Falls in the first semifinal on Friday, March 20th at 3:30 p.m., followed by Middlebury vs. Amherst at 7:00 p.m. The third place game will faceoff at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 21st, while the NCAA Championship game will get underway at 7:00 p.m.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets, or call (802) 443-6433. You can also stop by the central campus box office in McCullough during regular business hours, Tuesday-Friday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Advance tickets are sold only as a package for the four games, and are priced at $20 for adults and $10 for students. Single day tickets priced at $12/$6 are available at the door one hour before game time each day.

Middlebury is making its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Panthers have won more tournament games (11-4) and have a higher winning percentage (.733) than any other team in NCAA Tournament history. Middlebury won three straight titles from '04-'06, advancing to the finals in '07. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Middlebury captured the '00 and '01 AWCHA National Championship tournaments.

Middlebury earned its way into the tournament with an automatic bid after capturing its fifth NESCAC Championship. After falling to Amherst 3-0 and 5-0 during the regular season, the Panthers avenged those losses with a 4-3 overtime win at Amherst in the title game. Sophomore Anna McNally scored the game-winner 8:34 into overtime to lead the Panthers to the win. Middlebury was outshot 55-24 in the game, but NESCAC Player of the Week (3/9/09) Alexi Bloom made 52 saves in goal to backbone the Panther defense.

Middlebury has amassed an amazing 310-31-18 (.889) record over the past 14 seasons. The Panthers have boasted some impressive streaks in that time, including a 136-game Division III unbeaten streak (ended 1/26/01 with loss at Manhattanville) and an 85-game home winning streak (ended 3/1/02 with loss to Williams).

Middlebury opened the season with a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2) before falling to Amherst 3-0 to end the first semester. The Panthers bounced back in January and ran off a 10-game (8-0-2) unbeaten streak before having it snapped with a 4-2 loss at R.I.T. After a shutout win over Williams and a loss at Amherst, the Panthers ended the season with six consecutive wins en route to the NESCAC title.

The Middlebury offense led the NESCAC this season and ranked sixth in the nation with 4.04 goals/game. The scoring defense was second in the league and 12th nationally, allowing just 1.92 goals/contest this season. The Panthers also boasted an impressive power play, tops in the NESCAC and sixth in the nation at .218.

Leading the offense this season have been seniors Molly Vitt (10-19-29) and Annmarie Cellino (11-17-28). Vitt is enjoying the best season of her career, earning first-team All-NESCAC honors after leading the league with .76 assists/game. She is second on the team with four power play and three game-winning goals, while pacing the squad with 19 assists. Cellino earned second-team honors this season, after previously earning NESCAC Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in her career at Middlebury. She is second on the team with 17 assists, while earning 64 goals and 88 assists for 152 career points in 108 games.

First-year player Maggie Melberg (13-12-25) leads the team in goals and ranks third in points this season. She owns four power play goals, while her 1.0 points/game puts her seventh nationally among rookies.

Senior Erika Nakamura (11-10-21), sophomore Anna McNally (10-11-21), junior Heather McCormack (10-11-21) and sophomore Nora Bergman (6-15-21) round out the team's leading scorers. Rookie Grace Waters leads the team with five power play goals, while sophomore Julia Ireland has a team-high four game-winning goals.

Defensively, senior captain Randi Dumont has anchored the blue line this season along with sophomore Andrea Buono. Dumont earned first-team All-NESCAC honors as the Middlebury defense allows just 1.92 goals/game this season. She is tied for third in the league in defenseman scoring (2-14-16).

Junior Lani Wright is unbeaten in goal (9-0-2), ranking 10th in the nation with a 1.57 GAA to go along with her .908 save percentage. Sophomore Alexi Bloom (10-3-2) sports a 2.10 GAA and a .915 save percentage, earning NESCAC Player of the Week honors after leading the team to the NESCAC title.

Head Coach Bill Mandigo is now in his 21st season at the helm of the Middlebury women's hockey program. He has won more games than any other coach in the history of women's collegiate hockey. Mandigo enters the weekend with a career record of 390-97-20 (.774).

After leading his team to its first ECAC Championship in '96, Mandigo was named the ECAC Coach of the Year. Since then, he led the team to five more ECAC titles, five national titles and five NESCAC crowns.

In 2001, Mandigo was again honored as the ECAC Coach of the Year, as well as the AHCA National Coach of the Year. In '01, '04 and '05, Mandigo was named the AHCA National Coach of the Year.

2009 NCAA Division III Women's Hockey Tournament
Quarterfinals, March 14 - *=host school
*Amherst 4, Plattsburgh 1
*Elmira 3, Norwich 2
Wis.-River Falls 2, *Gustavus Adolphus 1

Semifinals, Friday, March 20th - Kenyon Arena - Middlebury College
Elmira (23-4-1) vs. Wis.-River Falls (20-5-3) - 3:30 p.m.
Amherst (22-5) vs. Middlebury (19-3-4) - 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 21st - Kenyon Arena - Middlebury College
Third-Place game - 3:30 p.m.
NCAA Championship - 7:00 p.m.