Women’s D-III wrap Dec. 2: Middlebury wins first Panther/Cardinal Classic since 2005

Middlebury celebrates its first Panther/Cardinal Classic title since 2005 (Middlebury Athletics)
Middlebury celebrates its first Panther/Cardinal Classic title since 2005 (Middlebury Athletics)

Upsets abound in Panther/Cardinal Classic
The Panther/Cardinal Classic proved to be the burying ground for the top two teams in the country entering the weekend. No. 8 Middlebury had not won the tournament since 2005. No. 1 Plattsburgh State, the defending national champion, had won eight of the previous 13 iterations, though had not claimed it since 2016. No. 2 Adrian, the defending tournament champion, entered the tournament with one of the top-ranked offenses in the country and the second-best power play in the country. No. 7 Wisconsin-River Falls was 0-1-1 against ranked teams entering the weekend.

Ultimately, it was the top two teams that fell, and Middlebury won the tournament, proving again that often it is defense that wins championships. Adrian was held to just a goal in each game, a 1-1 tie with Middlebury Saturday in the semifinal and a 4-1 loss to Wis.-River Falls on Sunday. Maggie Mitter got the Bulldogs the early lead with a power-play goal at 5:09 of the first against Middlebury, but the Bulldogs could not build on that lead, and Middlebury tied it with a power-play goal at 3:16 of the third when Madie Leidt scored. Middlebury goalie Lin Han made 19 saves. Middlebury fired 44 shots on Adrian goaltender Denisa Jandová, including three in the OT session. Middlebury advanced to the title game via a 1-0 win in the shootout, as Anna Zumwinkle scored the only goal in three rounds.

In the other semifinal, Plattsburgh advanced to the title game with a 3-1 win over Wis.-River Falls. Erin McArdle scored on a power play for the Cardinals at 5:07 of the first, and Annie Katonka made it 2-0 just over two minutes later with a five-on-three strike. Callie Hoff pulled the Falcons within one at 14:35 of the first, but Taylor Whitney gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead with a goal at 5:30 of the second, and goaltender Lilla Nease made 17 saves over the last two periods to preserve the win.

On Sunday, Wis.-River Falls beat Adrian, 4-1, in the third-place game. Abigail Stow struck twice for the Falcons in the first. Une Bjelland pulled the Bulldogs within one at 18:40 of the second, but Bella Wagner scored a power-play goal at 1:07 of the third, and Callie Hoff scored at 6:45, chasing Jandová from the net. Mia Glassco came on in relief and made four saves. Sami Miller made 23 saves in the win.

In the championship game, it was all about defense. Anna Goldstein made 29 saves for the Panthers in the win, as Middlebury continued to platoon its two goalies. Leidt gave the Panthers the lead at 9:47 of the first on a strike from the slot, and Katie Hargrave scored the game-winner on a rebound at 4:31 of the second. That was all on the night for Plattsburgh goalie Chloe Beaubien, who gave up two goals on just seven shots. Nease came on in relief and made 11 saves over the last two periods. Abby Brush gave the Cardinals some hope down the stretch, pulling Plattsburgh within one at 17:23 of the third. It was the first goal allowed by Goldstein all season. Plattsburgh pulled Nease with just over a minute to play, but Goldstein came up big on Plattsburgh’s best chance, a shot from McArdle with 34 seconds left.

Leidt was named tournament most outstanding player. Zumwinkle and Goldstein were also named to the all-tournament team, as were McArdle, Stow, Jandová, and Plattsburgh’s Nicole Unsworth.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire likely moving up rankings after big weekend against ranked teams
The No. 6 Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds will be moving up the rankings Monday, thanks to a 1-1 tie with No. 10 St. Thomas and a 2-0 win over No. 5 Elmira in the Lake Forest Invitational. On Friday, Ella Ierino scored the tying goal for the Blugolds at 14:50 of the second after Isabel Bianchi had put the Tommies up 1-0 at 8:17 of the second. Erin Connolly made 17 saves for the Blugolds. Elmira blanked Lake Forest in the other Friday game, 3-0, thanks to a goal and assist from Devyn Gilman and 31 saves from goalie Elizabeth Hanson.

On Saturday, Emily Bauer got the Blugolds the lead at 11:17 of the first with a power-play goal, and Hann Zavoral added a power-play goal at 13:06 of the second. That was enough of a margin for Connolly, who made 10 saves in the win. The Blugolds only allowed three shots in the third period. In the other game, Lake Forest upset St. Thomas, 2-1, thanks to an overtime goal by Megan Lyke. Olyvia Opsahl had pushed the game into OT with a goal at 15:18 for the Foresters, who fired 35 shots on Tommies goalie Eryn Cooley.

Nazareth stays hot
After taking a major step forward the previous weekend by beating Elmira and William Smith, Nazareth stayed hot with a 2-1 win over Castleton and a 1-1 tie with Amherst. Against Castleton, Nikolle Van Stralen scored the game-winner at 14:52 of the third period. Nazareth fired 50 shots on Castleton goalie Alexis Kalm, including 13 in the third period. Both teams were 0-for-4 on the power play. Against Amherst, Keeley Rose gave Nazareth the lead with a goal at 18:34 of the second, but Carley Daly scored just 55 seconds into the third to tie it. Nazareth goalie Adrianna Brehm made 28 saves, including four in the OT to preserve the tie.

Williams wins Codfish Bowl
Williams won the other holiday tournament, taking the Codfish Bowl thanks to a 5-0 win over host UMass-Boston and a 2-0 win over Stevenson. Marissa Anderson made 15 saves Saturday and 14 on Sunday. Williams dominated offensive play, taking 46 shots against UMass-Boston and 35 against Stevenson. Against UMass-Boston, Williams got three power-play goals and a four-on-four goal in the win. Five different players scored, and Meghan Halloran and Amanda Reisman each had a goal and an assist. Against Stevenson, Williams got all the scoring it would need when Liz Welch scored at 5:02 of the second, and Brianna Hill gave the Ephs a cushion with a goal just 2:45 later.