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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Women’s hockey claims 11th NESCAC title, punches ticket to national tournament

<p>Panther fans cheer as Middlebury celebrates a goal against Hamilton in the NESCAC semifinals. CHARLIE DEICHMAN-CASWELL</p>

Panther fans cheer as Middlebury celebrates a goal against Hamilton in the NESCAC semifinals. CHARLIE DEICHMAN-CASWELL

As Queen’s song “We are the Champions” rang through a packed Kenyon Arena, the Middlebury women’s hockey team celebrated their many accomplishments of the season: A 2022 NESCAC title, an undefeated season and revenge for their 2020 NESCAC Championship loss to Amherst.

The Panthers thoroughly bested the Amherst Mammoths from the first faceoff to the final buzzer. On the way to a 2–0 victory, Middlebury outshot Amherst 38–13 and even killed a 6-on-4 power play in the third period. Claudia Vira ’23 and Katie Hargrave ’22 scored the goals, with Jenna Letterie ’22.5, Maddie Leidt ’22, Raia Shluter ’25 and Sabrina Kim ’25 recording assists.

Leidt, who captains the team, was full of praise for her teammates: “This win is a testament to the work every single player has put into this team. We have no magical ingredient — we just outwork teams from start to finish.”

The win over Amherst came the day after a thrilling 3–2 victory over the Hamilton Continentals. The Panthers came from behind twice in the game, sealing the win with a go-ahead goal deep in the second period. Vira and Leidt both scored the equalizers while Caroline Cutter ’23 scored the winner. Letterie, Hargave, Jordan Hower ’24 and Eva Hendrikson ’22.5 all provided assists. 

Although the win over Amherst was a more decisive victory, the team still worked for the win. 

“There was nothing about our win that was easy, we truly had to fight for the full 60 minutes,” Hargrave said. “When the buzzer sounded, we all knew we put everything we had into that game.” 

The win marks Middlebury’s 11th NESCAC title since the league first began declaring champions in 2001. The team has also recorded three NCAA championships — the last was in 2006. Since then, the Panthers have advanced to the “Final Four” five times and have made the national final twice. 

The Middlebury women’s hockey team returns to action on Saturday, March 12, when they host Endicott in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The Panthers are ranked No. 1 headed into the national tournament.

Charles Crounse

Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.