Division-III womenâ€™s hockey was back in full force this past week with most of the teams returning to action to kick off the 2008 portions of their schedules. Some of the highlights of the first week of hockey in the new year were Bowdoin turning things around and getting their first win of the season against a strong St. Thomas team. The Polar Bears also beat previously seventh-ranked Manhattanville 3-2 giving Bowdoin two strong wins to build off for the remainder of the season.
Elmira won the St. Michaelâ€™s Holiday tournament in Burlington, Vt., shutting out Norwich 4-0 in their first game, and then beating Colby 7-4 behind a hat trick by sophomore forward Lauryn DePaul.
Trinity continued their outstanding and unprecedented start by beating Oswego 5-1 in the semi-finals of the Codfish Bowl and then taking down host UMass-Boston 1-0 in the championship game.
Top-ranked Plattsburgh went across the border to Montreal, Quebec and represented the United States at the prestigious Theresa Humes Tournament, featuring many of the top CIS Canadian colleges. Plattsburgh went 2-1 at the tournament, losing their first game to Ottawa 3-2 and then coming back to beat Moncton 4-2 and Guelph 3-0 for a fifth-place finish. The Cardinals went to this same tournament in 2004-2005 and came back winless, so going 2-1 has to be encouraging for the defending NCAA champions.
Panthers Dominate ECAC West/NESCAC Face-Off
In what Iâ€™ve unofficially dubbed the ECAC West/NESCAC Face-Off (In hopes the match-ups will continue next season), Middlebury flexed their muscles in a surprising way.
How many people would have taken the bet that Anna McNally and AnneMarie Cellino would be shutout in both of their games last weekend and the Panthers would still win both of them against Utica and RIT?
I, like probably all of you, are saying no way!
Well, they did.
Middlebury shutout fifth-ranked RIT 3-0 on Saturday and then capped off the weekend downing Utica 4-2 on Sunday after the Pioneers the previous night had upset fourth-ranked Amherst 2-1 in overtime.
â€œThey (Cellino and McNally) are two pretty special players,â€ said Middlebury head coach Bill Mandigo. â€œHowever, we have a lot of good players and you saw that last weekend. Itâ€™s a testament to the rest of our team that when the opportunity arises, anyone on our team can step up and help us win.â€
Junior Erika Nakamura (Boston, Mass.,) and freshmen Nora Bergman (Concord, Mass.,) teamed to lead the Panther offense against RIT each chipping in and goal and an assist. Freshmen Julia Ireland (Greenwich, Conn.,) added the third Middlebury goal to round out the scoring against the Tigers.
Against Utica, three Panthers scored their first goals of the season and another scored her second. Andrea Buono (Ashburnham, Mass.,) Heather McCormack (Rowley, Mass.,) and Margaret MacDonald (Judique, N.S.) were the first time goal scorers and Tania Kenny chipped in her second goal of the season to round out Middleburyâ€™s scoring.
Mandigo said they talked all week about how they wanted to approach the RIT and Utica games just like every other game throughout the season and not worry about the possible NCAA implications the games could have.
â€œAll games are important,â€ Mandigo said. â€œWe play each game one at a time and we just wanted to focus on playing 60 minutes of hockey each night and get better each period. Our goal since day one of the season has been to get better as the year progresses and play each team individually.â€
Middlebury 7-1-1 on the season and ranked third in the last USCHO.com Womenâ€™s D-III poll will host one of their NESCAC arch-rivals in the Bowdoin Polar Bears. While the Polar Bears are just 2-4-1 on the season, as mentioned before, they are coming off a strong week beating Manhattanville and St. Thomas as well as playing undefeated St. Anselm to a close 2-0 result.
â€œThey are on a little bit of a roll and playing well right now,â€ Mandigo said. â€œThey work hard and are a very well coached team with former Canadian Olympic player Stacy Wilson. Iâ€™m expecting to see a good game with a lot of up and down action which is typical of all Middlebury/Bowdoin games and the type of play you see in NESCAC womenâ€™s hockey.â€
Former Championship Acquaintances Renew Rivalry
This weekâ€™s game of the week features the two programs that played in the first two NCAA sanctioned tournaments in Elmira and Manhattanville. Elmira got the better of Manhattanville in both of those championship games claiming their first two NCAA titles in the first two years of the programâ€™s history. All the players and all coaches that participated in those two championship games are now gone but the rivalry still lives on as the two teams will collide in Purchase, N.Y. on Saturday.
While I hate to keep beating a dead horse and the coaches continue to downplay the significance of these types of games in all the top teamâ€™s season (as they should), game like this are critical come NCAA tournament selection time.
â€œOne of the things that has happened the past few years is the value of every game against a team with a winning record has been raised,â€ said Elmira head coach Paul Nemetz-Carlson. â€œManhattanville is a team that has been consistently ranked over the years and itâ€™s a great game that gives us a chance to ourselves in a better position for the NCAA tournament.â€
Manhattanville head coach Lauren McAuliffe echoed Nemetz-Carlsonâ€™s statements about the importance of Saturdayâ€™s game.
â€œElmira is definitely one of the biggest games of our season,â€ McAuliffe said. â€œWeâ€™re very excited about the chance to be able to prove ourselves against a national power.â€
Nemetz-Carlson acknowledged the fact that Manhattanvilleâ€™s unusual rink size will probably play a factor in the game and the Soaring Eagles will be changing up their game plan a bit to adjust to the 208×77-foot playing area.
â€œIâ€™m expecting Manhattanville to be well prepared and use the advantages of their unusually small and narrow rink,â€ Nemetz-Carlson said. â€œTheyâ€™ll take advantage of the mistakes we make and weâ€™re going to be have to be disciplined in our own end. Weâ€™re going to be a little bit less aggressive defensively and take away their speed advantage and back check hard to try and slow them down in the neutral zone.â€
McAuliffe commented that preparing for Elmira is a challenge because of their unique blend of size and speed.
â€œElmira has both big and quick kids and usually they are well disciplined,â€ McAuliffe said. â€œTheyâ€™re fast and weâ€™re going to try and one up that.
Weâ€™re going to have to play our own style and not get caught up playing theirs. We need to stay out of the box and get our power play clicking while playing the game we are capable of playing.â€
Both teams have a marquee win to date so far this year as Elmira has beaten RIT and Manhattanville has given Plattsburgh their lone loss, but they could both certainly use some more statement wins and this is a game that both could claim as a marquee win if they take it.