Middlebury goalie Julia Neuburger stopped all 24 shots she faced in a 2-0 NESCAC victory on Friday over Williams, helping the Panthers (15-6-2, 10-4-1) move into sole possession of first place in the conference standings. Middlebury's win gives its 21 points heading into tomorrow night's regular-season finale at Williams (10-11-2, 7-6-2), moving ahead of Hamilton (20 points) and Connecticut College (19 pts.), which played to a scoreless tie and meet again on Saturday.
The Panthers had a golden chance to open the scoring early on the contest with 1:36 worth of five-on-three power play time, starting at the 5:38 mark. Middlebury directed seven shots on goal during the advantage, but Williams' goalie Marissa Anderson stopped each one.
The hosts broke through for the game's initial tally with 1:16 left in the period on a play that started in the defensive zone. Janka Hlinka won the puck on the sideboards and touched it ahead to Jessica Young. Young continued the play headmanning the puck to Lizzie Sheline, who ripped a shot from below the left faceoff dot past Anderson for her sixth marker of the season.
In the second stanza, the Ephs had two quality opportunities in the first half of a minute. Neuburger denied Sara Lehman's redirection from the right side of the crease and made a second save when she snared the rebound with her catching glove. Middlebury's top-scoring chance of the period came while shorthanded. Young fed Sheline on the doorstep, but Anderson thwarted her original shot and her rebound bid.
The Panthers gained a two-goal edge at the 8:21 mark of the third period on Abby Marmer's first collegiate goal. Marmer tipped a shot in the slot taken by Haley LaFontaine that went behind an outstretched Anderson. Williams stepped up the offensive pressure minutes later and nearly scored on a redirection in front by Annie Rush, but Neuburger smothered the puck.
The Ephs were awarded a power play with 3:21 remaining and brought Anderson to the bench for a six-on-four advantage. The Panthers killed off the penalty thanks to three saves by Neuburger. She also came up big seconds after the power play expired, robbing Emily Kreuger's one-timer with a pad save and later denying Krueger on a redirection with 22 seconds left to secure the shutout.
Neuburger recorded her third-straight shutout against a conference opponent and hasn't allowed a goal to a conference foe in the last 200:46. Anderson finished with 36 saves for the Ephs. The Panthers, who held a 38-24 edge in shots, erased all five Williams' power plays and have now killed off 20-straight penalties. The Ephs kept the Middlebury power play in check, limiting them to 0-5.