Middlebury Beats Williams, Earns Top Seed In NESCAC Tournament

Middlebury's Anna Van Kula in action against Williams. (Photo courtesy of Will Costello)
Middlebury's Anna Van Kula in action against Williams. (Photo courtesy of Will Costello)

Middlebury secured the top seed for the NESCAC Women's Hockey Tournament for the sixth-straight and 11th time overall after a convincing 7-0 win over Williams (12-11-1, 8-8-0) in the regular season finale for both teams on Saturday. The seventh-ranked Panthers (17-4-3, 13-0-3) host eighth-seeded Colby in a NESCAC Quarterfinal match-up on Saturday, February 27. The Ephs are seeded fourth in and will host face fifth-seeded Trinity. Middlebury also extended it its conference regular-season unbeaten streak to 29 games (24-0-5) and have won six-straight overall. During the team's six-game winning streak, they have outscored the opposition 21-3 and have four shutouts.

The Panthers erupted with four goals in the first period, the first three coming in a span of 1:44. Audrey Quirk netted her first collegiate goal at the 7:48 mark with a wrist shot from the left point after taking a pass from Julia Wardwell. Rachael St. Clair doubled the lead at the 9:11 mark on a wrap-around, while 21 seconds later, Haley LaFontaine's shot from just inside the blue line eluded Williams goalie Julia Mini.

The final goal of the period came on the power play, as LaFontaine worked the puck down low to Kelly Sherman. Sherman directed a shot on goal from along the goal line that Mini got a piece of, but momentum of the shot carried the puck in to the net. That goal came with 2:50 left and was her fifth of the season. The Panthers held a 13-3 edge in shots in the period and didn't allow the Ephs a shot on goal for the opening 10 minutes.

Middlebury made it a 5-0 game 3:56 into the middle period, scoring again on the power play. Maddie Winslow fed the puck to the point before Wardwell cut into the slot and used a low shot for her second goal of the season.

Williams had two shots on a power play later in the period, but Middlebury goalie Julia Neuburger made a pair of stick saves.

The Panthers added two more goals in the third period, as Winslow picked up her team-leading 13th of the season at the 13:50 mark, while Shanna Hickman tipped in a shot with 1:24 left in the game. Hickman's goal, her sixth of the season, came on the power play.

Neuburger earned the win for the Panthers with eight saves in the first two periods and Marisa Dreher finished with nine in the final 20 minutes.

Mini had 22 saves for the Ephs as Middlebury held a 29-17 edge in shots. The Panthers went 3-5 on the power play, while Williams was scoreless in its lone advantage.