For the second time this season the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the nation will face off in a fight to be the top team in the nation. While the teams remain same, the rankings have changed. On Nov. 18, the then No. 1-ranked Middlebury Panthers invaded the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena and battled it out against the No. 2-ranked Plattsburgh State Cardinals. The Cardinals won that contest 4-2 to mark their territory as the top team in the country, a title they continue to hold today. Just short of three months later, the now No. 1-ranked Cardinals and No. 2-ranked Panthers meet again, this time at the Chip Kenyon Ice Arena where the Panthers have not lost since Feb. 5, 2006 against Williams.
The Cardinals enter the week with the nation’s best record of 17-0-2. They are 7-0-2 against ranked opponents and have played the nations toughest schedule by standard measures. They also boast the stingiest defense in the country, having allowed just 1.16 goals per game. They rank third in Division III, averaging 4.53 goals per game and have 11 players with double digit point totals.
Offensively, they are led by sophomores Danielle Blanchard (15-17-32), Lindsey Brown (8-12-20), freshman Laurie Bowler (12-12-24), and junior defenseman Julie Devereux (3-16-19). Devereux also plays a significant role on defense and is considered to be the team’s leader on the blue line.
Perhaps the most important player on the Cardinals wears No. 1. Senior goaltender Breanne Doyle has backstopped the Cardinals all season long, posting a 13-0-2 record with five shutouts. She is third in the nation with a 1.32 goals against average, just behind Middlebury’s Angie Todd (0.87) and Wisconsin-Superior’s Melissa Kunzelman (1.00). She is fourth in the country in save percentage at .936 and has the third highest winning percentage.
The Panthers meanwhile come into the contest at 17-1-1 having not lost since their opening game of the season against the Cardinals. The only other blemish on the schedule for the Panthers was a 1-1 tie against NESCAC foe Wesleyan. The Panthers have handled their competition with ease, allowing more than two goals in only three games this season. They have recorded six shutouts and are allowing just 1.26 goals per game, second nationally only to Plattsburgh.
Offensively they are averaging four goals per game with four players doing the bulk of the scoring. Seniors Abby Kurtz-Phelan (11) and Shannon Sylvester (10) are the top two goal scorers for the Panthers while sophomores Annmarie Cellino and Erika Nakamura each have eight tallies.
The most noticeable difference between this year’s Panther team and the last is the goaltending duties. Replacing Kate Kogut has been smooth sailing for the Panthers as junior Angie Todd and freshman Lani Wright have split time in net, each with stellar numbers. Wright has a record of 9-1-0 and is allowing an impressive 1.69 goals per game. Todd meanwhile stands at 7-0-1 and is tops in the country with a 0.87 goals against average. Todd also ranks second in the nation with a save percentage of .947.
The outcome of this game is going to be very important for seeding in the NCAA tournament. A win would put Plattsburgh in a very comfortable position as the top seed in not only the east, but in the country as well. A Middlebury win would likely propel the Panthers back to a No. 1 ranking and would create a neck-and-neck race for the top seed down the stretch. One thing going in the Panthers’ favor is the fact that Plattsburgh has never beaten them on their own ice. The Cardinals are hoping to break that trend and continue their undefeated season, while Middlebury looks for revenge from the teams’ first encounter this year.
Down Goes Gustavus
Judging by Friday night’s results between then-No. 2 Gustavus Adolphus and MIAC rival St. Thomas, the last thing that anyone would have expected would be for the Gusties to lose to the same team on Saturday. On Friday, the Gusties beat St. Thomas 8-0 with a 45-22 shot advantage and a 4-for-8 power play. Four players, Molly Doyle, Andrea Peterson, Kelly Crandall, and Stefanie Ubl each recorded three points in the game. The Gusties could not be stopped.
What a difference a day makes.