Trailing by a 2-1 score, Norwich scored twice in the second period and held off a late flurry by fifth-ranked Middlebury on its way to a 3-2 NCAA Quarterfinal win in Kenyon Arena. The fourth-ranked Cadets (22-4-3) advance to the final four at Plattsburgh where they will take on the host school.
In the first period at 2:30, Middlebury junior Julia Wardwell (Marlborough, Mass.) took a shot from the right point that just missed by inches to the wide side. A little more than halfway through the period, Middlebury got on the board first at 10:17. A wrister by junior Anna Van Kula (Radnor, Pa.) from the right side just outside the goal line was padded away by Norwich netminder Celeste Robert, but senior Katie Sullivan (Bethesda, Md.) was on the doorstep and backhanded it into the open net for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Sullivan's fourth of the year.
A little less than four minutes later at 14:11 after a failed Middlebury clear, Adelle Murphy corralled the loose puck near the offensive left dot and sent a pass to the left point to the stick of Liz Gemmiti. She laced a high shot into the top left corner that went through a screen past Middlebury senior goalie Madeline Marsh (Kanata, Ont.) to tie the game at 1-1. The goal was Gemmiti's second for the season.
Middlebury went on the power play at 17:45 and turned up the offensive pressure. The Panthers took a 2-1 lead when senior Hannah Bielawski (Evanston, Ill.) scored with a slapper from the right point after sophomore Carly Watson (Montpelier, Vt.) sent it directly to her stick. The goal was Bielawski's fifth of the season and her 99th career point.
At 2:07 of the second period, Sullivan skated into the offensive zone on a breakaway, but Robert cradled the puck in her body for the save. The Panthers later went on the power play at the 7:12 mark. After a Middlebury turnover with the extra skater, Norwich's Vanessa Champagne intercepted a pass at the Panther blue line and scored through Marsh's five-hole at 8:53. The shorthanded tally was the first given up by the Panthers all season.
Less than three minutes later and with the game tied at 2-2, sophomore Pam Schulman (Greenwich, Conn.) looked to put the hosts in front when she found herself on the left side with an open net, but Norwich's Muranda Toews recovered and blocked her shot. At 12:58, Champagne scored her second of the game and seventh of the year after her initial shot was blocked. She fell down heading toward the Middlebury crease, but recovered and lifted a wrister over Marsh to the wide side. In the period, the Panthers held a 13-6 advantage in shots, including the first nine scoring attempts.
Six minutes into the third period, Wardwell wristed a shot from the left point that got through traffic as Robert lost sight of it, but the puck trickled wide and Norwich maintained its one-goal lead.
Middlebury went on the power play at the 9:36 mark, as Bielawski's bid for her 100th career point hit the cross bar after a blast from the right point. The rebound came to the feet of rookie Jessica Young (Mission Hills, Kan.), who was unable to poke it home with an open look. The Panthers had a short four-on-three power play later in the period, as Robert made a diving save on Sullivan to preserve the one-goal lead.
The Panthers kept up the pressure, and pulled Marsh for the extra skater following a timeout with 1:59 remaining. Rookie Maddie Winslow (Manchester, Vt.) took a shot from just outside the crease that was saved by Robert, before Sullivan was denied on a rebound attempt.
Middlebury appeared to have tied the game with 30 seconds remaining, but the official lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead just before the puck crossed the line.
The Panthers finished with a 32-17 shots advantage in the game, as Marsh made 14 stops and Robert stopped 30 for the Cadets.
Norwich avenges a 2-1 overtime loss to Middlebury on February 3, as well as a 3-2 overtime win in the NCAA Quarterfinals at Norwich in 2012.
• Women’s hockey final record: 20-5-3