Did that just happen? Women’s hockey rallies to stun Connecticut Camels

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College women’s hockey coach Bill Mandigo said he had never witnessed anything like the ending of his team’s Saturday’s home NESCAC quarterfinal against Connecticut College.
And Mandigo has seen a lot of hockey: The game he had just coached, a 3-2 overtime victory over the Camels, was the 777th of his Panther career and his 578th win.
A few minutes earlier a front-row Middlebury student fan, just after Panther seniors Jenna Marotta and Katherine Jackson each scored empty-net goals in the final 0:37 to force overtime, had a more exuberant take:
“Holy (expletive deleted)!”
Panther sophomore Madie Leidt finished the job 2:23 into overtime. Jackson, from the right side, swept the puck toward the net. Junior Sidney Portner poked it at Camel goalie Bailey Mertz. The puck bounced to Leidt off the left post. She chipped a backhand at goal, but did not strike it cleanly.
After three goals in a four-game losing streak the Panthers caught a break on their third goal in three minutes. The puck butterflied, flying into the air over the sliding Mertz.
And then it dropped behind her and into the goal. The 15-7-3 Panthers and most of the crowd of about 600 celebrated, while the 10-11-3 Camels stood stunned.
Mandigo said the Panthers finally caught a couple breaks, noting on Jackson’s tying goal the Camels came within inches of clearing the puck before junior defender Anna Zumwinkle tracked it down. He added Leidt’s score was nothing he would draw up.
“The bounces haven’t been going our way the last few weeks. And then tonight there were two of them,” Mandigo said. “On the second goal, when their kid almost got it, and Anna Zumwinkle got it and kept the puck and she shot it and we (Jackson) put it in. And then Madie Leidt’s goal. That’s a bounce where it kind of flutters over the goalie.”
The Camels prevented the Panthers from maintaining offensive consistency for two periods, which ended with Connecticut on top, 2-0, and Middlebury holding a 17-15 edge in shots on goal. But then the Panthers came to life and outshot the Camels, 15-3, in the third.
“There was a sense of urgency. They didn’t want to lose the game and their season,” Mandigo said.
PANTHER JUNIOR GOALIE Lin Han squares up the puck to deny Camel Erin Dillon during Saturday’s NESCAC quarterfinal at Chip Kenyon Arena. Han backstopped the Panthers’ dramatic 3-2 overtime victory with 17 saves. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Marotta, a defender and team captain, said the Panthers’ pressure eventually took its toll.
“We came out a little bit on our heels,” Marotta said. “But we never gave up. We were relentless to the end.”
Marotta and Jackson are two of four Panther seniors, forwards Rachel St. Clair and Kat Shuchuk being the others. Marotta said they were motivated to set the tone for the late surge.
“We weren’t getting dressed today thinking this was the last day we were putting it on,” Marotta said.
The Camels scored their goals early in the second period. The first came on a power play at 0:27. Paige Michel’s shot from the left point found its way through traffic past Panther goalie Lin Han (17 saves, including a key stop early in OT). At 2:00 Erin Dillon roofed a backhand in on a breakaway to make it 2-0.
The Panthers failed to convert five power plays, two in the third period, a recent trend. Zumwinkle, Marotta and St. Clair had chances on the first four, and Portner just missed on a Leidt feed on the fifth. Portner also shot just high from the left side in the third period.
Mandigo waved Lin to the bench with 1:56 to go, and Eva Hendrikson and Porter threatened at 1:30. Finally Marotta’ screened shot from between the circles deflected home at 19:23, with Jackson assisting.
MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SENIOR Rachel St. Clair battles Connecticut’s Paige Michel for the puck during Saturday’s NESCAC quarterfinal. Photo by Mark Bouvier
The Panthers then controlled the faceoff, dumped the puck in and won it. Portner sent it back to Zumwinkle, who fired into a knot of players. The puck bounced to Jackson off the right post, with a foot of open net inviting her to shoot. At 19:44 she made no mistake, and the Panthers believed in miracles.
“It’s pretty crazy in the locker room right now. I think we’re going to build on this going into next weekend,” Marotta said.  
Next weekend is the final four at top-seeded Williams, who will face No. 5 Amherst in one Saturday semifinal. No. 2 Middlebury will meet No. 3 Hamilton at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and the final is 2 p.m. on Sunday.
CAMEL GOALIE BAILEY Mertz makes one of her 31 saves as Panther Madie Leidt cuts in from the left looking for a rebound. Leidt scored the overtime game-winner as the Panthers rallied from a 2-0 deficit with two goals in the final minute to defeat Connecticut, 3-2. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Mandigo hopes the Panthers’ scoring touch will carry over, but he doesn’t expect anything like this past Saturday.
“I’ve never seen that before, two goals in the last 36 seconds of a game, in all my years,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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