MIDDLEBURY, VT. — Middlebury needed to adapt quickly to the absence of captain and second-leading goal scorer Emily Quizon in Friday’s NCAA quarterfinal. Fortunately for the Panthers, they found their rhythm halfway through the game.
Middlebury (25-2) overcame an early 2-0 lead from Manhattanville (23-4-1), stormed back with four unanswered goals, and held on for a 4-3 win to advance to next weekend’s NCAA semifinals. The Panther special teams led the way with two goals on the power play and one shorthanded.
Quizon injured a knee in last Sunday’s NESCAC final, and the Panthers offense was not displaying its typical tape-to-tape passing and smooth transition early on.
Freshman and team-leading scorer Annmarie Cellino was one player who stepped up in Quizon’s absence with a lasting lead goal and two assists.
“It shows a lot about the depth of our team,” Cellino said. “If we lose Quizon, she’s a great player, but we have to move past that and play our best.”
Erika Nakamura got Middlebury on the scoreboard with a power play goal at 9:41 of the second period. Cellino set the table by working clear out of the corner for a shot from the right wing faceoff circle. Vailant goalie Karine Turmel made the initial save, but Nakamura fought for the rebound and slid the puck into the net from just outside the crease to her stickside.
“We don’t depend on one person, it can come from anyone with the great leadership from the seniors and juniors it is really easy to step up and follow their lead,” Nakamura said.
“Getting the power play goal was key, once we scored we really picked it up, we started skating better,” said Middlebury coach Bill Mandigo. “When we scored we knew we were in it.”
The Panthers tied the score 2-2 on a shorthanded goal by Tania Kenny at 13:18 of the period. Nakamura and Lacey Farrell were forechecking deep on the boards in the leftwing corner when Kenny streaked into the slot wide open. Her initial shot was saved by Turmel but she managed to lift her rebound over the sprawling goalie to score.
“Karine played very well,” said Manhattanville coach Nicole Kirnan. “Every goal was a second or third effort shot. It is really up to the rest of the players to clear the rebound and play the body in front. I thought she did her job tonight.”
The shorthanded goal was the Panthers’ 11th of the season compared to five power play goals allowed. Is it possible for their opposition to decline the penalty?
The freshman Cellino looked like an upperclassman yet again when she put the Panthers on top 7:18 into the third period, as she broke down the left wing into the slot and roofed one over Turmel’s left shoulder.
“It was all hustle by Shannon Sylvester to get me the puck and I put it in.” Cellino said.
Gloria Velez scored a necessary insurance goal on the power play at 16:14 of the third period. Turmel made several saves before Velez stuffed it home for the 4-2 lead.
“We just wanted to skate together for one more week,” Velez said. “We’re definitely a third period team. We come through huge when it is crunch time.”
The pressure was on Middlebury when Manhattanville’s Jessica Zimmerman led of the scoring just 2:49 into the game. Cory Alcorn made the score 2-0 at 5:48 of the second period when she intercepted a clearing pass from behind the Middlebury goal and flipped a backhand from just outside the crease over goalie Kate Kogut’s shoulder.
Zimmerman scored again with 2:36 to go to cut the deficit to 4-3, and Manhattanville had a power play chance to tie the game just 10 seconds later. But Middlebury drew a penalty 13 seconds later to erase the threat.
“People have to step up if we were going to move on,” Mandigo said. “They believe in themselves. There’s no quit.”
Middlebury now advances to an NCAA semifinal against Gustavus Adolphus at a yet to be determined location next Friday.