The Middlebury College women's hockey team advanced to the NCAA Division III championship game for the third consecutive year with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Gustavus Adolphus College on Friday afternoon at Stafford Arena in Plattsburgh, New York. The Panthers took a 2-0 lead on goals by Emily Quizon and Shannon Sylvester in the second period and then held off a furious Gustavus rally in the third period to claim the one-goal victory. Middlebury, which improves to 26-2-0, will play Plattsburgh State for the NCAA Division III Championship on Saturday at 7:00 pm.
The first period was played at a very high tempo with both teams moving the puck up and down the ice. The game featured contrasting styles as Gustavus pushed its defense deep into the Middlebury zone, while Middlebury floated a forward at the Gustavus blue line hoping to catch the Gustie defense deep and create a breakaway opportunity. Gustavus controlled play for the better part of the period and created several good scoring opportunities, but Middlebury goaltender Kate Kogut came up with several big saves. The Panthers did create two 1-0 breakaway opportunities, however Gustavus goaltender Kitty Hurley came up with one big save, while Middlebury forward Annmarie Cellino ripped a wrist shot just wide on the other opportunity. The period ended in a 0-0 tie. Gustavus outshot the Panthers 12-4. The Gusties were unable to convert on either of their two power play opportunities.
The second period saw the Middlebury forecheck begin to give the Gusties some problems and create some good scoring opportunities. Early in the period, Gustavus' Jenny Pusch was whistled for a checking penalty. Middlebury was able to keep the puck in the Gustavus zone for the majority of the two-minute advantage and created two great scoring chances, however Hurley came up with two impressive saves to maintain the scoreless tie. Middlebury, however kept the pressure on Gustavus after the power play opportunity and began to control play. At the 6:45 mark, the Panthers finally connected with forward Emily Quizon who was floating at the Gustavus blue line and she skated in uncontested and slid the puck through Hurley's legs to give Middlebury a 1-0 advantage. Shannon Tarrant and Karen Levin were credited with assists on the goal. The Gusties had a chance to even the score with a 5-3 advantage for 90 seconds at the 9:50 mark, however Middlebury, which leads the nation in penalty killing, kept the Gusties off the scoreboard and maintained its 1-0 lead.
Late in the second period, Gustavus forward Brigitte Bartholdi was sent to the box with a tripping penalty. The Gusties appeared to have killed the penalty when Middlebury caught Gustavus on a line change and two Panthers skated in uncontested on Hurley. The Panthers scored what turned out to be the game-winner as Shannon Sylvester beat Hurley with a wrist shot to the glove side at the 17:09 mark. Assists were credited to Annmarie Cellino and Tarrant. The second period ended with Middlebury holding on to its 2-0 lead. The Panthers out-shot the Gusties 15-7 in the period.
Gustavus began the third period with 1:50 remaining on an interference penalty assessed to Middlebury's Tania Kenny at 19:53 of the second period. The Gusties created several good scoring opportunities but were unable to convert on the power play opportunity. Gustavus did manage to wrestle the momentum away from Middlebury and started to control play like it had at times in the first period. At the 11:16 mark, Kenny was assessed another penalty putting the Gusties on the power play for the fourth time in the game. Forty seconds later, Middlebury picked up a delay of game penalty against Emily McNamara giving Gustavus a two-player advantage for the next 90 seconds. Forty-five seconds into the two-player advantage, Gustavus' Margaret Dorer attacked the net from the top of the right circle and sent a crisp pass across the crease where Kelly Crandall one-timed the puck into the net to cut the lead to 2-1 with 7:18 left to play.
Gustavus pulled its goaltender for the final minute-and-a-half of the game. The Gusties used the sixth attacker to create several excellent scoring opportunities. The best opportunity came with :50 left when Pusch found the puck on her stick right in front of the left post, however she was unable to lift the puck over the outstretched pad of Kate Kogut who managed to cover the puck and preserve the victory for the Panthers.
Gustavus finished with a slim 26-23 advantage in shots including a 7-4 advantage in the third period. Middlebury was assessed seven penalties for 14 minutes, while converting on one of its four power play opportunities. Gustavus was whistled for four penalties for eight minutes and converted one of its five power play opportunities. Kogut made 25 saves for the Panthers, while Hurley turned away 21 shots for the Gusties.
Middlebury continued its domination of the Gusties claiming its ninth victory in as many tries and third victory in national tournament play. The Panthers will now attempt to claim their third consecutive national title on Saturday night.
-Courtesy: Gustavus Adolphus-