Panther women’s hockey pulls out two ties

MIDDLEBURY — Yes, agreed Middlebury College women’s hockey coach Bill Mandigo on Saturday after his team rallied for the second time in two days to tie visiting NESCAC foe Amherst, 1-1, half a loaf is better than none.
That result followed Friday’s 2-2 stalemate against the 10-1-3 Jeffs. The 8-2-3 Panthers are ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division III, while Amherst skated into Chip Kenyon Arena ranked No. 10.
The Jeffs also entered and left with a one-game lead over the Panthers in the NESCAC standings: Amherst is now 6-0-2, while Middlebury is 5-1-2 in league play with two games at third-place Bowdoin (8-3-3, 4-1-1 NESCAC) on tap this coming weekend.
So, yes, Mandigo said on Saturday, the ties were better than one alternative, but the Panthers missed a chance to take over first place on their own rink.
“I’m sure they (the Jeffs) are happy going home, because things haven’t changed. It’s a first-place game, and we were playing at home,” he said. “Going on the road and getting two ties is a lot different than playing at home and getting two ties.”
Mandigo was also not pleased with an effort he said was inconsistent. Certainly, the Panthers appeared to carry more of the play on Saturday; they outshot the Jeffs, 28-22. Their forechecking was often effective, but the Panthers were unable to convert loose pucks and rebounds into goals, sometimes due to unlucky bounces.
But Mandigo said his forwards are not doing enough to create their own luck. 
“You’ve got to make the bounces. When you’re working harder, you get the bounces,” Mandigo said. “We need to work hard and accomplish. It’s always one kid reached, or somebody didn’t quite get there, or somebody makes the wrong decision with the puck.”
He believes the Panthers’ focus is not quite there for the entire game, although he was happier with Saturday’s third and Friday’s first and third periods.
“The first 40 minutes we just kind of went through the motions, and we can’t do that against good teams,” he said. “We didn’t play 60 minutes Friday night, and we didn’t play 60 minutes tonight.”
Mandigo did praise the work of goalies Annabelle Jones and Madeleine Marsh, and said his defense has been solid in its own zone and improving in clearing the zone.
“Defensively, we do a pretty good job of protecting it and getting it out. But at the same time we have to do it at the other end, too,” he said.
On Saturday, the Panthers created first-period pressure, but tallied only six official shots on goal despite chances from McKenzie Martin, Elizabeth Wulf, Janka Hlinka, Jessica Young, Katie Mandigo, Maddie Winslow and Allie Aiello up front and a couple dangerous Carly Watson point shots.
But Amherst emerged with the lead with a power-play goal at 10:21. Erin Martin, at the left post, one-timed the rebound of a point-blank Alex Toupai shot from the right side; it was the Jeff’s first real chance of the game. They almost made it 2-0 soon afterward, but Eileen Harris backhanded a shot wide after picking off an errant Panther pass. Marsh, who made 21 saves for Middlebury on Saturday, also denied Martin from the slot later in the period.
 At 4:30 of the second period, Amherst goalie Sabrina Dobbins (27 saves in a strong effort) stopped Emily Fluke and Julia Wardwell in a scramble outside the Jeff crease that induced the second Jeff penalty of the game. But the Panther power play failed to score on that and five other chances. Katie Sullivan and Hannah Bielawski also had good chances for the Panthers in the period.
Early the third, Sullivan and Sherman couldn’t net a rebound of a Watson blast, and another Watson bomb from the point later hit the left post. Marsh also withstood a Jeff counterattack, flashing her right pad to deny Emma Griese as Griese skated left-to-right in front of her and tried to put the puck back inside the left post. Marsh made another pad save moments later.
Finally the Panthers equalized at 19:35. After Dobbins stopped Fluke from the slot on a strong Bielawski rush down the left side, the puck popped to Young just to the right of and slightly behind the goal. Young banked the puck home off Dobbins to create the final score.
Mandigo did enjoy the final 20 minutes.
“I thought the kids played hard in the third period, battled back. Maddie Marsh, the goalie, was excellent, she made two kick saves in a row that were just outstanding,” he said.
MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SENIOR Katie Sullivan turns up the ice during Saturday’s game against Amherst. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
On Friday, Winslow scored with 6:11 to go to create the deadlock: She tipped in a pass from Bielawski on a play set up by Mandigo.
Middlebury took the lead in the first period on a Watson shot that deflected home, with Winslow and Mandigo assisting.
Amherst tied the game in the second on an Emily Flom shot from the left point that went off the right post and in. The Jeffs went ahead midway through the third on Lynndy Smith’s power-play goal past a screened Jones, who stopped 26 shots in the Panther net. Amherst goalie Yuna Evans was credited with 29 stops.
Looking ahead, Mandigo is hopeful that the 60-minute message will sink in.
“It’s a pretty good group. I think there’s potential to work real hard. It’s that next level,” he said. “That’s where our skill can help us.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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