MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College women’s hockey team on Saturday overcame a hot goalie and a 1-0 second-period deficit to defeat visiting NESCAC foe Wesleyan, 3-1.
That victory finished a 3-0 week that was the Panthers’ first action after the holiday break — they defeated Wesleyan at home on Friday, 6-1, and won a non-league game at Utica on Wednesday, 4-1. The Panthers (8-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 NESCAC) were No. 4 in last week’s NCAA Division III poll.
Overall, Coach Bill Mandigo likes what he has seen of this year’s Panthers, pointing to their team speed and high level of effort.
“It’s a good group. They work hard,” Mandigo said. “We have things to work on … but there are always things to work on and get better at.”
Saturday’s game shone a light on one thing he would like to see improve: The Panthers required 46 shots to record three goals. Cardinal goalie Ashleigh Corvi was sharp, but Mandigo said all of the NESCAC teams have good goaltending.
“I thought we played hard. We just didn’t put the puck in the net. Their goalie was excellent, and they played pretty good defense,” Mandigo said. “I have no problems with our effort, but we have to find ways to win pucks in front of the net and put pucks in against good goalies.”
The return of high-scoring senior Lauren Greer as soon as this week will help — she has been out since late November with a broken ankle — especially on a power play that went one-for-seven on Saturday.
Mandigo believes the Panther power play can bounce back to typically productive levels.
“Our power play throughout the years has been pretty good,” Mandigo said. “We’ll go back and work on it.”
Certainly, the power play produced shots vs. the 4-8 Cardinals on Saturday. The Panthers were a skater up three times in the scoreless first period and peppered Corvi, especially from the left-wing circle: She denied shots from there by Hannah Bielawski, Sara Ugalde and Emily Fluke, and also stopped Heather Marrison twice from the point, Bielawski from the slot, Mackenzie Martin from about five feet to her left, and made three saves in a period-ending scramble.
The Panthers outshot Wesleyan, 16-1, in the first period, and it was more of the same in the second — a 19-4 edge. One early Cardinal bid was dangerous, but Panther goalie Madeline Marsh sticked away Laura Mead’s screened bid from the right-wing faceoff dot.
But Marsh couldn’t stop another screened shot, Hannah Jellinek high drive from the left-wing circle at 8:03 that looked like it deflected off a defender.
Wesleyan then took a series of penalties that were forced by the Panthers’ clearly superior skating ability, but successfully killed off three, including two that overlapped. Corvi stopped Bielawski twice from the left circle again, made a nice blocker stop on an Ugalde bid ticketed for the upper left corner, and denied a Jennifer Krakower deflection.
Finally, the Panthers broke through on another power play at 18:29. Madison Styrbicki’s hard shot from the right point hit Corvi and dropped outside the crease, and Cornwall freshman Katie Mandigo one-timed it into the right side of the net.
The Panthers weren’t through in the period. Their effective forecheck paid off after Julia Wardwell poked the puck loose behind the Cardinal net. Katie Sullivan — a thorn in Wesleyan’s side throughout — sent it out diagonally through the slot toward Krakower closing from the right point. Krakower slammed a 25-footer home, and the Panthers had the lead at 0:43.
More Panther pressure — an 11-1 advantage in shots — paid off in the third. Martin and Maggie Woodward stripped the puck from a Cardinal behind the net, and Woodward set up Mandigo on Corvi’s doorstep at 12:34. It was Mandigo’s fourth of the year, and the first two-goal game of her Panther career.
“She’s good in front of the net. She can snap it,” said her coach and father. “And she … can get the puck sometimes that other people can’t.”
In Friday’s 6-1 win, Martin had a goal and two assists; Madeline Joyce, Bielawski, Marrison and Fluke all finished with goal and at least one assist; and Styrbicki chipped in two assists. Corvi finished with 37 stops, while Laura Pinsent (three saves) and Marisa Dreher (two saves, one goal against) shared time for Middlebury.
In the 4-1 win at Utica, Ugalde, Mandigo, Joyce and Fluke scored for the Panthers, and goalie Annabelle Jones made 15 saves as the Panthers outshot Utica, 32-16.
Coach Mandigo noted the schedule will toughen: Amherst (5-1 NESCAC, 7-4 overall) visits this weekend, and a trip to Bowdoin (4-0 league, 8-1-1 overall) follows the weekend after.
“As I told the kids, there are no easy games left,” he said.