Middlebury Women’s Hockey Holds Off Utica, 2-1

Kiana Verplancke made 25 saves for her first collegiate victory. (photo courtesy of Will Costello)
Kiana Verplancke made 25 saves for her first collegiate victory. (photo courtesy of Will Costello)

It was a milestone night for the Middlebury women's hockey team as the Panthers posted a 2-1 win over Utica on Friday in Kenyon Arena. Rachael St. Clair and Katarina Shuchuk each scored their first career goals and Kiana Verplancke made 25 saves for her initial collegiate victory. Middlebury (6-3-3) is back on the ice on Saturday for a 3:00 p.m. faceoff with Endicott, while the Pioneers (9-5-1) are idle until January 22 when they play a 7:00 p.m. contest at Potsdam.

The Panthers had a good scoring chance early in the opening period when they were awarded a power play 1:41 into the game. Middlebury's scoring bid came 30 seconds into the advantage, when Shuchuk tipped a shot in front and had a second opportunity at the rebound. Utica goalie Amanda Lupo (31 saves) held her ground and made both saves.

The visitors took their turn on the power play midway through the period after Lupo made a key save on a 2-on-1 opportunity by the Panthers. Utica won the faceoff in the Middlebury zone and Kayla Dion sent a shot from the point, which Verplancke made the save on, but Elizabeth Dohner lifted the rebound into the top corner of the net at the 10:10 mark of the period.

The Panthers pulled even late in the period (18:15), when St. Clair collected a rebound on a shot by Katherine Jackson and swept it around Lupo to tie the game at 1-1.

Middlebury scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal at the 17:08 mark of the second period when Micaela Thibault forced a turnover on the near boards, and sent the puck to the point.  Jenna Marotta directed a shot on goal, which was tipped in by Shuchuk for a 2-1 lead.

The Panthers ran into penalty trouble late in the period when the Pioneers were awarded a power play with 1:12 left and that moved to a 5-on-3 for the final 32.8 seconds when another penalty was called. Middlebury weathered that time to close out the second period holding its one-goal advantage.

Middlebury started the third period strong as the Panthers erased the final 48 seconds of Utica's power play. The hosts limited the Pioneers to only one shot in that time.

Verplancke made her best save of the period (6:30), when she stuck out her left pad to stop Morgan Reed from close range.

Utica twice pulled the goalie in the final 1:09 to get the equalizer, but the Panthers didn't allow the Pioneers to get set up in the attacking zone. Elizabeth Wulf secured the victory by winning a defensive-zone faceoff of with 4.5 seconds left.

The Panthers held a 33-26 edge in shots on goal and each team had four power-play chances, with the Pioneers scoring on one of them.