Women’s hockey falls in NCAA’s
PLATTSBURGH — The NESCAC champion Middlebury College women’s hockey team came up short in its bid for the program’s fourth NCAA Division III title this past weekend in Plattsburgh.
In a Friday semifinal, eventual champion and host Plattsburgh State scored four unanswered goals in the second period and survived a Panther third-period rally to prevail, 5-3.
The top-ranked Cardinals then defeated Wisconsin-River Falls in Saturday night’s final, 5-1, to claim their third straight championship and finish at 29-1.
WRF defeated Elmira in overtime, 4-3, in Friday’s other semifinal. Elmira claimed Saturday’s third-place game at Middlebury’s expense, 4-1, leaving the Panthers with a 21-6-3 record that included an unbeaten record in NESCAC play and the regular-season and postseason NESCAC championships. They entered the NCAAA tournament ranked No. 4.
Against Plattsburgh on Friday, the Panthers failed to capitalize on an early power play, and the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead at 7:26 of the opening period, seconds after their own power play expired. Muna Fadel won the puck in the left-wing corner and found Karen Hudson cutting into the slot from the left circle. Hudson’s one-timer beat Panther goalie Julia Neuberger (who made a career-high 36 saves) into the far side.
Middlebury’s Jessica Young answered with 7:58 remaining in the period, just after the Panthers killed another Cardinal power play. Maddie Winslow cleared the zone to Janka Hlinka, who fed the puck ahead to Young on the left wing. Young beat a defender before snapping a shot into the far corner from the bottom of the circle.
The Panthers soon earned a power play and nearly took the lead. Young, on the right side, fed Winslow at the left post, but Cardinal goalie Camille Leonard (21 saves) slid across to deny her point-blank one-timer. The period ended in a 1-1 tie with Plattsburgh holding a 13-7 shots advantage.
The Cardinals dominated the second period, outshooting the Panthers, 16-5, and scoring four times. Kayla Meneghin stuffed in her own rebound at 1:08, and the Cardinals made it 3-1 at 5:36, when Fadel scored on a hard wrister from the slot after a feed from Meneghin.
Neuburger kept it 3-1 with a pair of nice saves at 12:50 and 13:10 just before a Plattsburgh power play. On the power play, Neuburger made a big glove save on a blast from the left point by Megan Delay, but could not stop another power-play bid at 16:10, a Bridget Balisy rocket to the top left corner from the right circle. Plattsburgh struck 59 seconds later when Giovanna Senese tucked home a Melissa Sheeran feed to make it 5-1.
In the third, at 12:35 Young rapped the puck home after Wulf knocked it down in the crease. Wulf made it 5-3 with 2:19 remaining, one-timing home a Winslow pass from the left circle.
The Panthers pulled Neuburger with 1:56 remaining and sustained pressure and with about a minute left thought they had scored, but officials ruled the puck did not cross the goal line.
On Saturday, Elmira’s Maddy Jerolman netted the rebound off a Olivia Nystrom shot 14 seconds into the game. Panther defender Jenna Marotta equalized on a power play at 3:57, one-timing a Winslow feed from the left, with senior Julia Wardwell picking up the second assist.
Elmira took the lead at 14:38 of the first, when Katie Granato knocked home a puck in the slot that had bounced into the air. The Panthers were outshot, 13-8, in the period.
Elmira took a 3-1 lead 4:37 into the second session, when Johanna Eidensten’s backhander from the right face-off circle got past screened senior goalie Marisa Dreher (24 saves). After being outshot 13-8 in the first period, the Panthers held a 9-5 edge in shots in the second.
The Panthers created chances in the third but could not convert on two power plays, and Elmira added an empty-netter. Elmira goalie Kyle Nelson stopped 24 shots.
The game marked the last for seniors Wardwell, Dreher, Katie Mandigo, Anna Van Kula and Micaela Thibault.
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