Panther women seeking crown

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The Middlebury College women’s hockey team will be seeking its fourth NCAA Division III title and sixth national title this weekend when the Panthers visit Plattsburgh State University for the NCAA Final Four.
The task will not be easy for the 21-4-3, No. 4 Panthers: Waiting for them in a semifinal to be played at 3:30 p.m. on Friday will be host and top-ranked Plattsburgh. The 27-1 Cardinals already own a win over the Panthers this winter, 3-0 at their own Stafford Arena.
If the Panthers pull off the upset, they will play the winner of a Friday night game between No. 3 Wisconsin-River Falls (22-5-2) and No. 5 Elmira (22-4-1) in the final at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Middlebury did not face Wisconsin-River Falls this season, but lost at home to Elmira on Nov. 27, 3-1.
But a Panther team with a dozen freshmen and sophomores skating regular shifts is entering the Final Four on a roll: They have won 10 straight and 16 of 17 games since that Plattsburgh loss and finished unbeaten in NESCAC play.
Having NESCAC Player of the Year Maddie Winslow, a sophomore from Manchester, on the roster has helped. Winslow has recorded four straight game-winning goals in the postseason and seven overall, and she enters the postseason with 19 goals and 24 assists.
Her sophomore linemate Jessica Young has chipped in 11 goals and 16 assists, and another sophomore, Elizabeth Wulf, is next on the scoring table with six goals and 12 assists.
Other forwards contributing offense include freshman Shanna Hickman (six goals, six assists), sophomore Janka Hlinka (four goals, seven assists) and junior Kelly Sherman (five goals, five assists). Senior Katie Mandigo returned for the NESCAC tournament after missing most of January and February with injuries and has contributed five goals and an assist in 13 games.
Senior Julia Wardwell (two goals, 12 assists) and junior Victoria Laven have anchored a defense that has been challenged by injury. Junior all-American Carly Watson was lost for the season to an injury in the sixth game, and freshman regular Grace Jennings hobbled off the ice during the NESCAC final on March 6. Sophomore Haley LaFontaine and freshman Jenna Marotta have shouldered the load, with Marotta (a goal, five assists) contributing on the power play.
In goal, sophomore Julia Neuburger won the starting job and has posted five shutouts in her past nine outings, including this past Saturday’s 4-0 home victory over UMass-Boston in an NCAA quarterfinal. She will carry a 1.39 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage into Friday’s game with the Cardinals.
If the Panthers come up short on Friday, they will play in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.  

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