SUPERIOR, Wis. — Middlebury accomplished something no other Division III women’s hockey team did this season: defeat No. 1 Plattsburgh.
Using a fast start and a solid all-around effort from its defense, No. 6 Middlebury took down Plattsburgh 4-1 on Friday in the semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Division III women’s hockey championships.
The Panthers (20-7-2) earned a trip to Saturday night’s national championship game against the winner of the second semifinal between Elmira and Gustavus Adolphus. Plattsburgh fell to 26-1-2 and will play in the third-place game Saturday afternoon.
Lauren Greer and Emily Fluke scored in the first and second periods, respectively, for Middlebury, while Molly Downey and Maggie Woodward added insurance goals late in the third period.
“We knew that if we came out flat the game was just going to go ahead of us, so we came out with a lot of energy,” Greer said. “We knew that our opportunities were going to be slim so any opportunity we got early was going to be key.”
Annabelle Jones stopped 27 of the 28 shots she faced for the Panthers.
“She made some key saves and held her ground in the net,” Middlebury coach Bill Mandigo said.
Plattsburgh’s Chelsea VanGlahn cut Middlebury’s lead to 2-1 just over three minutes into the third period but the Cardinals got no closer.
Sydney Aveson made 19 saves for Plattsburgh.
Middlebury had the momentum early in the first period, generating several good looks in the third minute. Aveson stood tall and weathered the early onslaught.
Middlebury took advantage of the first penalty of the game after Jenny Kistner was sent to the box for tripping at the 9:25 mark. After holding the zone for opening portion of the power play, Hannah Bielawski fired a wrister toward the net from the left dot. The shot hit a defender in front then bounced back onto the stick of Greer, who gave Aveson no chance with her putback try, sending the puck into the top left corner of the net.
Plattsburgh looked as if it had struck the equalizer 36 seconds into the second period, but the goal was waved off because Emma Rutherford played the puck with a high stick.
Middlebury grabbed a 2-0 lead within the first five minutes of the second period. While fighting off a hook from behind as she moved in on Aveson all alone from the Plattsburgh blue line, Fluke put a forehand wrister on the goalie that dribbled across the line for the score.
Plattsburgh held the advantage in offensive zone time in the second period and outshot the Panthers 9-5. Jones stood tall all period in the Middlebury net, turning away all nine shots to keep her club in front 2-0.
But the Cardinals cut into the lead 3:07 into the third. Moving the puck up the far right wing, Ali Vakos centered to an all-alone VanGlahn, who was moving in on the Middlebury netminder with speed down the middle of the slot with a defender closely behind the entire way.
VanGlahn reached for the pass in front of her, redirecting the puck through the five hole and into the back of the net.
The Panthers held off the Cardinals, though, and put the game away late.
After an onslaught of shots from point-blank range in front of the net, the puck disappeared in the carnage and several Middlebury players hacked trying to dislodge the puck. The garbage detail in front paid off as Downey was able to dig the loose puck free and score with 2:35 remaining.
Maggie Woodward poked the puck away in the Plattsburgh zone with 17 seconds on the clock, putting it into an empty net to provide the final margin.
“That’s a big win for our team and our program,” Mandigo said.
Plattsburgh controlled the shots category 28-23 and won the battle in the faceoff circle 50-23. Middlebury was 1-for-5 on the power play; Plattsburgh was 0-for-2.
Contributing: Ethan Armstrong