2017-18 Women's Hockey Season Preview

Senior captain Janka Hlinka and her teammates start the season when they host NESCAC foe Trinity on November 17-18.
Senior captain Janka Hlinka and her teammates start the season when they host NESCAC foe Trinity on November 17-18.

On the heels of a strong run to the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago with a young team, the Middlebury women's hockey squad looks to build on that experience with another deep playoff push this winter. The Panthers finished with a 19-7-2 record last winter and captured the NESCAC Championship for the second-straight year and the ninth time overall after earning the top seed for the tournament. Middlebury enters the season ranked sixth in the USCHO.com preseason poll.

Head coach Bill Mandigo, entering his 30th year on the Panther bench, has won more games than any coach in women's college hockey history with a 541-142-39 mark.

In the offensive end, the Panthers return plenty of firepower with five of their top-six point producers back. Senior Jessica Young was named a Second-Team All-American, netting team-high totals of 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points. The three-time All-NESCAC selection tallied at least one point in 20 games last winter. In 86 career games, she enters her senior season with 98 points on 45 goals and 53 assists.

Senior Maddie Winslow, the 2016 New England Division II-III Women's Player of the Year and 2016 First-Team All-American, ranked second on the Panthers in scoring with 29 points on 13 goals and 16 assists a season ago. The Second-Team All-NESCAC forward put together an 11-game point streak in 2016-17. The 2015-16 NESCAC Player of the Year led the conference with six power-play goals last winter, ranking her 12th in Division III. She enters her final campaign in the Panther sweater closing in on 100 career points with 95 (42-53-95) in 86 career contests.

Elizabeth Wulf is a steady two-way player, serving as a key player on the penalty kill and power play. In addition to being a stalwart, Wulf netted four goals on the power play and finished the season with 12 points (6-6-12).  She was a key factor at the face-off dot a season ago, including many crucial wins late in games.

Senior captain Janka Hlinka (8-12-20) netted some crucial goals for Middlebury a year ago, including a trio of game-winning scores. She tallied a goal and had two assists during the NESCAC Championship victory over Amherst.

Sophomore Lizzie Sheline (8-9-17), the NESCAC Rookie of the Year last winter, is another returner who potted a pair of power-play goals to go along with a short-handed tally, while juniors Rachael St. Clair (3-5-8) and Katherine Jackson (4-3-7) will battle for ice time as well.

On defense, Middlebury returns an experienced group of players. Sophomore Anna Zumwinkle recorded four goals and five assists while skating in all 28 games last winter. The Panthers have other veteran blue liners who will log valuable minutes, including senior Haley LaFontaine along with junior Jenna Marotta.

Senior Julia Neuburger and sophomore Lin Han will battle throughout the preseason after splitting time in the crease last season. Neuburger posted a 12-4-0 record last season with a 1.41 goals against average and a .935 save percentage and four shutouts. Han played in 13 games with 12 starts, tallying a 7-3-2 record as well as a 1.54 GAA and a .920 save percentage.   

This season, Middlebury faces a tough schedule that boasts seven opponents ranked or receiving votes in the preseason top 10. The Panthers open with a two-game home NESCAC series in Chip Kenyon '85 Arena against Trinity on November 18-19, before traveling to Plattsburgh State to take part in the Panther/Cardinal Classic on November 25-26.