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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Middlebury women’s hockey punches ticket to NCAA semifinals

The women’s hockey team is looking to repeat as national champions after winning the title two years ago.
The women’s hockey team is looking to repeat as national champions after winning the title two years ago.

The Middlebury women’s ice hockey team is moving on to the NCAA semifinals. In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Panthers beat Western New England University 8–0, and in the quarterfinals, the team topped Plattsburgh State 2–0. 

Middlebury was first on the scoreboard in the victory over Western New England when Avery McInerny ’26 put a puck past the goalie at the end of the first period. Just over a minute later, Delanie Goniwiecha ’23.5 added to the tally. Throughout the postseason, the Panthers have developed a reputation for scoring in rapid succession, building off of each other’s momentum to keep getting the puck in the net.

McInerny scored again in the second period to extend the lead. Sabrina Kim ’25, Kate Flynn ’27 and Jordan Hower ’24.5 each added goals of their own to bring the score up to 6–0. Despite the game already being securely out of reach for the Golden Bears, the Panthers remained ruthless to the final buzzer.

In the third period, Audrey Lazar ’23.5 scored her first goal of the season, and Raia Schluter ’25 finished Middlebury’s scoring spree to end the game with a difference of 8–0. Middlebury’s defense remained sturdy throughout the game, highlighted by another clean sheet by Sophia Will ’26, her third of the postseason. 

After their first-round win, the Panthers met Plattsburgh in the quarterfinals, to whom they lost 2–1 earlier this season in January. Despite failing to record a win over the Cardinals since the 2019-2020 season, team captain Cat Appleyard ’24.5 described the Middlebury squad entering the game with confidence.

“We've been really confident. We've been able to score and going into the games this weekend, people were riding our NESCAC win as well as our win on Wednesday and felt really confident in themselves and their teammates and our goalie across the board,” Appleyard said. “For some reason, I wasn't that nervous going to the week and I was just confident in everybody.”

Facing Plattsburgh in the NCAA quarterfinals gave Middlebury a sense of deja vu after the Cardinals knocked them out in the same round of the tournament last year in a 4–2 defeat. This year, the Panthers were searching for revenge. 

As they have done often this postseason, the Panthers were first to score. Lazar shot the puck into the net halfway through the first period for her second goal in as many games. Later in the period, Plattsburgh almost answered with a conversion of their own, but Will made a fantastic save to maintain the shutout. 

In the second period, Flynn converted a pass from Callia Ferraris ’27 to make the score 2–0 before the rest of the game went scoreless. In a desperate attempt to make up their two-point deficit, the Cardinals pulled their goalie off the ice to add an additional skater, but Will’s stalwart defense kept the Cardinals at bay. This was her eighth shutout of the season, tying her for second in the Middlebury single-season record book.

This Friday, the Middlebury women’s hockey team hopes to continue their momentum as they will face Elmira College in the final four, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, with the chance to play in the NCAA DIII Championship game on the line.

“We're just going to carry this wave of confidence that we've had from [the quarterfinal] and from the past couple of games and we're gonna work really, really hard this week,” Appleyard said. “We're going out to Wisconsin early this week, so being able to get out there and take a plane and just feeling the excitement of being able to go to the final four is huge.”