Women's Hockey Clinches Top Seed In NESCAC

February 14, 2014

Middlebury clinched the top seed for the NESCAC Tournament after a 3-2 win over Williams (11-8-2, 8-3-2) in a battle of the top-two teams in the NESCAC standings. The second-ranked Panthers (17-2-3, 12-0-3) survived a late scare by the Ephs, as they remain undefeated in league play this season. The two teams will go back at it on Saturday, with part two of a home-and-home series in Williamstown.

Middlebury had the best two chances to score in the first period, both of them coming on Williams’ turnovers. Sara Ugalde nearly took advantage, breaking to the goal with an open look, only to have her shot saved by Chloe Billadeau 5:00 into the game. Emily Fluke stole a puck in the low slot at the 13:07 mark, with Billadeau making a nice save on the backhander to keep the Panthers off the board. The first period ended with shots tied at nine apiece.

Middlebury took a 1-0 lead 6:01 into the second period with a great individual effort by Micaela Thibeault, resulting in her first career goal. After taking the puck away from a defender in the defensive zone, Thibeault skated through center ice before making a nice self-pass off the right boards. She quickly gathered the puck and wristed a shot into the back of the net to give her team the advantage.

Williams wasted little time on a power play midway through the second period, scoring eight seconds in. Hanna Beattie’s shot from the point was tipped in down low by Gabrielle Vukasin for her sixth of the season. The power play tally was just the second given up by the Panthers this season in 42 attempts during NESCAC play.

Middlebury regained the lead with just 42 seconds remaining in the period. After the original shot from the right side by Katie Sullivan was saved, a scramble ensued in the crease with Hannah Bielawski finishing for her sixth of the year. Williams held a slight 11-9 shots edge in the period, but trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes.

The Ephs took advantage of another power play opportunity 3:54 into the third period, tying the game at 2-2. Beattie took a pass from Caitlin Conlon at the point, before scoring with a slap shot into the back of the net.

Middlebury enjoyed back-to-back power plays beginning at the 14:38 mark, scoring the game-winner 29 seconds into the second opportunity. Carly Watson found Jennifer Krakower on the right side, as she blasted a shot past Billadeau for her eighth of the season.

Williams came back strong, going on the power play with 2:10 remaining and then making it a two-player advantage on another Panther penalty with 42.1 seconds on the clock. With Billadeau pulled, Williams had a six-on-three advantage for the final 32 of the final 42 seconds, but the Panther defense held strong. The Ephs best chance to score came as time was winding down when Michaela Levine found herself wide open on the far post. She partially fanned on the first shot, but her second attempt was headed toward the back of the net before Annabelle Jones made a sprawling save with her stick to preserve the win.

Williams held a 29-26 shots advantage in the game, going 2-4 on the power play. Jones made 27 stops in goal to improve to 12-0-3 on the year, while Billadeau made 23 saves for Williams.