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Saturday, Dec 2, 2023

Women's Hockey Looks To Dominate Once Again

Author: David Lindholm Assistant Sports Editor

Total domination. Two words that perfectly describe the Middlebury Women's Hockey team in the last six season. The team's record over that time: 134 wins, 21 losses, three ties. In league play, the women have not lost a game dating back to 1998 and boast a record of 36-0-1 in the last two years.

The Panthers outscored opponents 123 to 19 last year. Middlebury has won everything possible for the last six years; taking the Eastern College Athletic Conference title since 1995-1996, and winning the National Championship in 2000 and 2001, the tournament's first two years in existence. The Panthers have gone 112-0-1 since 1995 against Division III opponents. This season, beginning on Friday, the team hopes to continue their run.

Everything looks to be in place for this year's campaign, gaining six first-years after losing only two seniors from last year. Those two did have a huge impact on the team, however, as National Player of the Year Michelle Labbe is now gone, as is tough blueliner and last year's co-captain (with Labbe), Sarah Carpenter. Labbe led the team in goals and assists last year, finishing with a fantastic 61 points. However, many players will look to step out of Labbe's shadow and impress this year.

Three of those players will be this year's captains: seniors Laurie Richmond, Catherine Elkins and Megan Hutchinson. Richmond, a forward, and Elkins, a defender, were both amoung the team's leaders in points last season. Hutchinson will be a fixture between the pipes in her second year as the main starter, and hopes to improve on last year's superb .931 save percentage. Also filling the void left by Labbe will be juniors Erin and Amber Neil. The pair were second and third respectively in points last season. Erin will be a force again at forward, with Amber behind as a defender. Also returning are standouts Angela Kapus '03, Nina and Nico Kieves '02 and a host of sophomores.

The Panthers may face tougher competition than they have in the past, as the margin between Middlebury and other Eastern schools is getting smaller every year. Last year's tie at Bowdoin was the first non-win in over 100 division three games for the Panthers. The Panthers were down 3-1 in the game and recovered with two third-period goals to finish in a tie, but Middlebury was unlucky, outshooting the Polar Bears 46-15.

However, the Panther offense is sure to continue producing, and will play upbeat, exciting hockey with plenty of goals. Head Coach Bill Mandigo will again be at the helm, his 14th season in charge the team. This past season, Mandigo was once again honored as the East Coast Athletic Conference Eastern College Athletc Conference (ECAC) Coach of the Year, as well as the American Hockey Coaches Association National Coach of the Year.The Panthers' first five contests are all at home, starting this Friday against Amherst and continuing Saturday against Hamilton. Friday night's game is at 7 p.m. in the Grand Kenyon.