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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Women's Hockey Already with Four Wins

Author: David Lindholm Assistant Sports Editor

The Middlebury Women's Hockey team opened their season in style, winning their first four games. It was exactly the way that they had hoped to start the campaign, playing solid defense and pounding shots on net en route to shutouts in each of the games. The four foes that the Panthers faced were all in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), and Middlebury showed their dominance, outshooting opponents by a total of 178 to 18.

Middlebury was helped by their schedule; their season started against relatively weak teams, and all four games were at home. And the Panthers took advantage on Friday, Nov. 16, when they demolished Amherst, 9-0. Middlebury put the game away early: Angela Kapus '03 took a pass from Jean Butler '04 and put it away only 53 seconds into the match. The Panthers never looked back. Kapus added another goal and two assists, and both Butler and Amber Neil '03 finished the game with three points.

The next day Middlebury played a much stronger Hamilton College team. Despite maintaining control of the puck in Hamilton's zone, none of the Panther shots could find their way past goaltender Jen Kroleski. The game went into the third period deadlocked at 0-0. It was a tense game heading into the third, as Hamilton was getting good opportunities on occasional counter-attacks, and it looked as if they could have stolen a goal.

"I don't think we were worried about losing the game," said Head Coach Bill Mandigo. "[The team] just needed to focus, start shooting low and get in fighting for rebounds. But [Kroleski] did play very well."

An invigorated Midd team emerged from the locker room and quickly jumped out to the lead in the third, courtesy of a Kristin Reid '04 power-play goal, with assists from Amber and Erin Neil '03. Two more goals came in that final period, monkey one from Meghan Stone '05 and another from A. Neil.

First-years Stone and Jackie Cohen both picked up the first points of their Middlebury careers, and Cohen played an especially strong game, forechecking well and creating numerous opportunities.

The Panthers were back at it again a week later, hosting Trinity on Saturday and Wesleyan on Sunday. When most of their schoolmates were sleeping and still recovering from turkey, the team was outskating and outplaying overmatched opponents. Trinity is one of the weakest teams in NESCAC, and was beaten severely. While the donkey Panthers scored only six goals, the shot total tells the tale: 65-5.

Several Middlebury players had big games. Erin and Amber Neil combined for a goal and seven assists, and Rose Babst '05 scored the first two goals of her career, including the last goal. Senior captain Laurie Richmond added two goals and an assist.

The final game of the run was against Wesleyan, who was taken apart by a score of 7-0. Many different players had points, but leading the team with two goals was another first-year who opened her Middlebury account, Lindsay Jones. E. Neil continued her run of fine form with a goal and two assists and was later named NESCAC Player of the Week for her performances.

The Panthers now look toward their next three games, all of which should be tough. On Saturday, Middlebury hosts Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. The next weekend, the Panthers travel to Maine to face Bowdoin, ranked second nationally (behind Middlebury) and then on Sunday Midd will face Colby, Number 12 in the country.

"We play a bunch of games in the next few weeks that will be very tough," said Mandigo. But the team is riding high and will carry their momentum into the tough matchups.