Women's Hockey Blanks UMass Boston - Headed to Final Four

Julia Wardwell assisted on two goals in the NCAA Quarterfinal win. (Will Costello)
Julia Wardwell assisted on two goals in the NCAA Quarterfinal win. (Will Costello)

Middlebury broke open a 1-0 game with three goals in the third period on its way to a 4-0 win over UMass Boston in an NCAA Quarterfinal game in Kenyon Arena. The fourth-ranked Panthers (21-4-3) advance to take on host and top-ranked Plattsburgh State in the NCAA Semifinals next Friday at 3:30 p.m. Elmira will meet Wisconsin-River Falls in the other semifinal at 7:00 p.m. The Beacons, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance, finish the season with a 16-13 mark. The win was the 10th straight for the Panthers, giving them nine shutouts this season.

Middlebury outshot UMass Boston 12-2 in the first period, but neither team was able to find the back of the net. The Panthers had a great chance just 1:15 in, but Maddie Winslow missed wide after a feed from Jessica Young left her a good look. Two minutes later, Katie Mandigo fed Anna Van Kula, who broke in all alone, but the play was broken up by Beacon goaltender Rachel Myette (26 saves).

UMass Boston's best chance came at the 6:40 mark of the period.  Kristen Embrey's shot was saved by Julia Neuburger (13 saves), as a follow-up attempt from Jane Morrisette went just wide.

Middlebury answered with two more quality scoring chances in the period, but Allie Aiello was robbed by Myette on a backhander before Young was denied on a two-on-one break.

UMass Boston had a pair of opportunities early, but Neuburger made a blocker save on Maren Brown, before stopping Alli Bianchini in the first five minutes of the second period.

The Panthers broke through at the 12:29 mark with a power-play goal. Julia Wardwell dished the puck from behind her own net to Jenna Marotta on the right side, who found Winslow streaking up the left wing. Winslow cut through the left circle before snapping a shot into the top-right corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage. The Panthers went on the power play late in the period and were unable to convert as it expired in the third. The second 20 minutes saw each team with eight shots on goal.

In the third period, Winslow nearly netted her second of the game when she hit the crossbar just 1:05 in. The Panthers did make it a 2-0 game less than a minute later when Janka Hlinka scored cutting to the goal from the left circle for her fourth of the season.

Middlebury kept coming, taking a 3-0 lead less than two minutes later at the 12:29 mark with the team leading 19th goal of the season from Winslow. The NESCAC Player of the Year tipped in a shot from the left point by Wardwell for the goal.

The Beacons nearly got on the board 6:30 into the third, but Neuburger flashed her right pad on a tip by Alexandra Karlis to keep the shutout intact.

Middlebury took a commanding 4-0 lead midway through the period with a power-play goal from Elizabeth Wulf at the 10:45 mark. Wardwell dropped a pass to Winslow, who saw her initial shot saved by Myette. Wulf was there to put home the rebound for her sixth of the year, which would be the game's final goal.

Middlebury returns to the final four for the first time since 2013 and has earned its most wins since 2010-11 (23). Winslow has scored the game-winner in each of Middlebury's four postseason games this season, earning six goals and six assists during the stretch. Neuburger earned her third shutout in her last seven starts with today's performance.