Author: Kate Neremberg
It has been a long time since a Division III women's hockey team has been able to overcome the consistent superiority of the Middlebury Panthers. On Jan. 26, Manhattanville College snapped Middlebury's 136-game winning streak, with a 4-1 victory. The Panthers had not left the ice with a Division III loss since 1995 and hadn't dropped an Eastern Conference Athletic Conference (ECAC) game since its inception before the '95-'96 season, including taking home the ECAC Championship trophy in each of the years since.
Coach Bill Mandigo looks at Saturday's game as "a valuable lesson," and feels that this was actually a blessing in disguise. "The loss is a catalyst to get better, to realize other teams are very good and competitive," Mandigo said. "We are practicing hard and competing. We have to make sure we show up at every game with our best effort. Manhattanville played very well. They were hungry, competitive and compassionate. We didn't start playing until we were three goals down. That's too little too late."
Cherie Stewart of Manhattanville started off the scoring with a goal 14:31 into the first period. Two more Manhattanville goals followed in the first 10 minutes of the second, and Middlebury did not strike back until almost 12 minutes into the period, when Angela Kapus '03 finally put the Panthers on the scoreboard off a pass from Erin Neil '03. However, the team could not overcome the emotional play of Manhattanville, which was able to score once more in the third period.
Using newfound motivation and their success in the first half of the season, the Panthers will try to rebound from this loss. As Middlebury plays stronger teams, Mandigo will also rely on his two goaltenders, Kati Madouras '04 and Megan Hutchinson '02. The pair are third and fourth in the nation, respectively, in goals against average (GAA). Madouras and Hutchinson did not allow a goal until the sixth game of the season, in a hard-fought 3-2 win over Bowdoin. Mandigo was particularly impressed with Madouras' play in a 3-3 overtime tie versus Yale, a Division I team, on Jan. 25.
Defensive standout Amber Neil '03 will lead the way in coming weeks for the Panthers, and already has 11 goals on the season. With 24 points, [11 goals and 13 assists] she leads the nation in points per game for defensemen.
Along with the win over Bowdoin, the Panthers also found a challenge in a 3-1 win over Colby College and an 8-0 rout of Williams College. Mandigo acknowledges these as important wins and knows that Bowdoin College, Colby and Williams will be looking to follow in Manhattanville's footsteps in the upcoming games. All three of these NESCAC schools are ranked in the national top 10.
Next week, the team faces some out-of-conference opponents when they fly to Minnesota to play Gustavus Adolphus College on Sunday and Augsburg College on Monday. Mandigo sees these teams as big challenges. He feels that "there was a great reaction [to the loss] on the team's part. We just have to take it one day at a time."
After the best practice of the year on Monday night, according to Mandigo, the team should be ready for a test on Jan. 30 when they play Williams at home. Defenseman Jackie Cohen '05 stated, "Manhattanville made us recognize our weaknesses and strengths, but our team is confident. We are ready to step up to the challenge."
Manhattanville Ends Panthers' D-III Dominance at 136 Games
Author: Kate Neremberg