MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The number-one Middlebury Panthers topped Sacred Heart in a nonconference match Saturday, 4-0. The two teams, who met in last year’s ECAC Division III league playoffs, battled in a gritty and physical game.
The Panthers started the game strongly on the offensive end, jumping out to a 1-0 lead off a goal by Rose Babst, her third of the year in four games. Four minutes later Middlebury’s Amber Neil was fed a puck right at the top of the crease from her twin sister Erin Neil; Amber Neil buried the puck past Sacred Heart’s Kimberly Derleth for a 2-0 margin.
The second stanza saw only one Sacred Heart shot, compared to Middlebury’s 10; however, the scoreless middle period included back and forth action that gave Sacred Heart hope for a rally. The Pioneers’ game plan included preventing Middlebury’s forwards from getting rebound attempts in front of the net and used pressure in the neutral zone to try to slow Middlebury from passing quickly up ice.
Three minutes into the third, Middlebury captain Laurie Richmond took the puck behind the Pioneer net, skated in a wide arc all the way out to the point on Derleth’s left before crossing the slot and firing a shot that went in from the right side.
Middlebury killed off a penalty assessed three minutes later, again frustrating Sacred Heart, which was able to bring the puck into the zone but rarely put it on net. Finally, with two and a half minutes left Meghan Stone iced the game for Middlebury with a fourth goal.
Sacred Heart’s Derleth made 31 saves on 35 shots, while Middlebury’s Megan Hutchinson and Kati Madouras combined for seven saves to earn the shutout. Middlebury’s record now stands at 5-0, while the Pioneers drop to 3-2 on the young season.