Fifth-ranked Middlebury scored the game's first five goals, as the Panthers topped Utica 5-1 Saturday on day one of the Panther/Cardinal Classic in Kenyon Arena. Middlebury (3-0) faces top-ranked Plattsburgh State in the title game Sunday at 4:00 p.m., while the Pioneers (3-3) will skate in the consolation game at 1:00 p.m. against third-ranked Adrian.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard quickly when Sidney Portner used hard work along the end boards to gain possession of the puck. She sent a short pass to the top of the crease where Shanna Hickman swept in her first goal of the season 1:30 into the contest. Middlebury took a 2-0 lead midway through the stanza (10:16) when defenseman Jenna Marotta sent a perfect pass from the right point to the far post, where Janka Hlinka redirected the puck behind Pioneer goalie Keira Gion.
Middlebury goalie Julia Neuburger was perfect in net during the opening 20 minutes, stopping all 12 shots she faced.
In the second period, the Panthers were awarded four power-play opportunities and cashed in on half of those chances. Elizabeth Wulf made it 3-0 at the 3:13 mark of the period when she redirected a shot from the point by Carly Watson. Wulf tallied again late in the frame (26.7 seconds remaining), lifting a rebound under the cross bar from the left circle. Watson again earned the primary assist as her shot from the point was stopped by netminder Amanda Lupo, who entered the game earlier in the period.
Utica had the better scoring chances early in the third period with more than a minute of five-on-three power-play time. At the end of the second minor, Neuburger made three quality stops from close range, stopping Meghan Power and Olivia Hirschy (twice) in succession.
The Panthers made it 5-0 the next trip down the ice, converting on a two-on-one break. Kelly Sherman slid the puck from the left wing to Rachael St. Clair, who deposited the pass into the Utica net at the 4:43 mark.
The Pioneers spoiled the shutout with 1:43 remaining in the game. Taylor Dion sent the puck back to the left point to Jane Pagano, who weaved her way into the slot and directed a high shot into the Middlebury net to close out the scoring.
Neuburger finished with 28 saves, while Lupo (17 saves) and Gion (five saves) each saw time in goal for the Pioneers. The visitors held a 29-27 edge in shots, while the Panthers went 2-6 on the power play and Utica was scoreless in three opportunities.