Women’s hockey to host final four

MIDDLEBURY — The 18-4-3 Middlebury College women’s hockey team this weekend will be hosting the NESCAC final four, with the league’s automatic NCAA Division III berth at stake as well as the NESCAC playoff championship.
The top-seeded Panthers will meet No. 5 Trinity (15-8-2) at 1 p.m. on Saturday, while No. 2 Amherst (21-1-3) will face third-seeded Connecticut College (15-7-3) at 4 p.m. The winners will meet on Sunday at 2 p.m. Amherst has one league loss, giving the Panthers, unbeaten in NESCAC, the top seed.
The Panthers defeated Trinity twice at Kenyon Arena early this season, 5-1 and 2-1; tied Amherst on the road twice, 2-2 and 3-3; and defeated and tied Connecticut, 3-2 and 1-1, at home.
The Panthers will enter the tournament as the No. 7 ranked team in NCAA Division III, while Amherst is ranked No. 4.
The Panthers edged visiting Colby on this past Saturday, 4-3, while Amherst defeated No. 7 Bowdoin, 2-1, in overtime. Trinity got past No. 4 Williams, 2-1, while Connecticut blanked No. 6 Hamilton, 3-0.
Middlebury, which skates a dozen freshmen and sophomores in its regular lineup, has won 13 of its past 14 games and seven straight, losing only to No. 8 Norwich on the road, 3-2, in that stretch. The Panthers’ other losses all came earlier to ranked teams, Plattsburgh, Elmira and Castleton.
Three sophomore forwards lead the team in scoring: Maddie Winslow (14 goals, 19 assists), Jessica Young (nine goals, 14 assists) and Elizabeth Wulf (five goals, 12 assists). Senior Katie Mandigo returned to the lineup to help out against Colby after missing almost all of January and February due to injuries; she is part of one of the four groups the Panthers regularly skate on the attack.
With all-star defender Carly Watson lost for the season to a December injury, senior Julia Wardwell and junior Victoria Laven have helped anchor the backline that has allowed 1.25 goals per game in the regular season. Sophomore Julia Neuberger (1.35 goals-against average with a .935 save percentage) won the starting goalie job, starting more than half the Panthers’ games and almost all of them down the stretch.
The Panthers will be seeking their eighth NESCAC playoff title this weekend. If they earn that distinction and reach the NCAA tournament, they will be seeking the program’s sixth NCAA title and first since 2006.
Middlebury advanced to the NCAA final four in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, and reached the final in both 2007 and 2013. 

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