Women’s hockey earns No. 1 seed in NESCAC

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College women’s hockey team, ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division III, swept a weekend home-and-home series from Williams to earn the top seed for the NESCAC women’s hockey tournament for the sixth straight and 11th time overall.
The Panthers (17-4-3, 13-0-3 NESCAC) picked up their 11th and 12th wins in 13 outings and will host No. 8 Colby (6-15-3, 3-12-1 NESCAC) on Saturday in a 2 p.m. quarterfinal matchup. Barring an upset, they will host the league’s final four the following weekend. The Panthers recently picked up a pair of one-goal wins at Colby.
Saturday’s 7-0 win over Williams (12-11-1, 8-8-0 NESCAC) extended Middlebury’s conference regular-season unbeaten streak to 29 games (24-0-5) and was the Panthers’ fourth shutout in five outings.
The Panthers erupted for four goals in the first period, with the first three coming in a span of 1:44. Audrey Quirk netted her first collegiate goal at the 7:48 mark with a wrist shot from the left point after taking a pass from Julia Wardwell. Rachael St. Clair doubled the lead at the 9:11 mark on a wrap-around, and 21 seconds later Haley LaFontaine’s shot from just inside the blue line eluded Williams goalie Julia Mini (22 saves).
The final goal of the period came from Kelly Sherman on a power play. LaFontaine worked the puck down low to Sherman. Sherman shot on goal from along the goal line that trickled in off Mini. The Panthers held a 13-3 edge in shots in the period and didn’t allow the Ephs a shot on goal for the opening 10 minutes.
Middlebury made it 5-0 3:56 into the middle period, scoring again on the power play. Wardwell skated into the slot and converted after Maddie Winslow fed her the puck at the point. 
Williams had two shots on a power play later in the period, but Middlebury goalie Julia Neuburger (eight saves in two periods) made a pair of stick saves.
The Panthers added two more goals in the third period. Winslow picked up her team-leading 13th of the season, and Shanna Hickman tipped in a shot on a late power play. In relief of Neuberger in goal, Marisa Dreher finished with nine saves in the final 20 minutes.
 On Friday, the Panthers won at Williams, 2-0, as Neuberger worked a 24-save shutout and Jessica Young and Katherine Jackson found the back of the net.
Young’s power play goal 6:29 gave Middlebury the lead. Elizabeth Wulf and Winslow picked up the assists.
The Panthers scored again at 15:42 of the middle period. Jackson received a nifty pass from Rachael St. Clair and skated in on the right side one-on-one on Mini, beating her with a wrister to the short side. Mini finished with 18 saves as Williams finished with a 24-20 shots advantage.  

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