Defending national champion Middlebury used a four goal onslaught in the second period to advance past Gustavus Adolphus in Friday afternoon’s semifinal contest. But the Panthers had to withstand a withering number of shots by the Gusties in the third period to hang on to a 7-3 victory.
“We knew they wouldn’t quit in the third period, and were just hoping that our kids wouldn’t relax,” said Middlebury coach Bill Mandigo.
Down 5-1 at the second intermission, Gustavus poured 25 shots on goal in the third period, setting a record for a single period in an NCAA women’s playoff game. Panther goaltender Kate Kogut stopped 23 of those 25 shots, also setting an NCAA single period record.
“The second period I didn’t face a lot of shots,” Kogut said. “So I went out there in the third period ready, knowing that they were going to come at us with all they have got. But it was definitely a few more shots than I expected.”
The opening half of the first period saw Gustavus use an aggressive forecheck to set the tempo for the game. The Gusties dominated play territorially, but each team had scoring chances.
Gustavus’ best opportunity came when Ingrid Neve rushed into the Panthers’ zone after seeing a Middlebury defender’s feet get tangled up, but Middlebury All-American Shannon Tarrant held her ground and poked the puck off Neve’s stick.
One minute later, Middlebury’s Shannon Sylvester caught the puck as it squirted out of the corner, but shot it directly into netminder Kara Meyer’s chest.
Play opened up a little in the latter half of the first period, and the teams swapped goals. First in the back of the net was Middlebury at 13:28. Emily Quizon caught a long breakout pass as she was cruising at center ice and streaked into the Gustie zone on a clean breakaway. Quizon made no mistakes with the puck and slid it past Meyer to the far corner of the net to give Middlebury the 1-0 lead.
“All I needed was to find a good space, because we’re not used to a rink this size,” said Quizon. “I used the middle of the ice to find a hole, and my teammate was able to find me.”
“Our goal was to see if we could play a really good first period,” said Gustavus coach Mike Carroll. “The thing that did us in in the first period was odd man rushes. They got that breakaway goal, and it was something that we had worked on all week in practice because we knew it was coming. That took a little wind out of our sails.”
Gustavus struck back less than two minutes later to tie the score 1-1. The Gusties set up in the Panther zone, and Molly Doyle looked as if she was about to carry the puck behind the net. But at the last second, she flipped the puck towards the near post, and it bounced off a Middlebury defender into the goal at 15:11.
During the second period, Middlebury took control of the game scoring four unanswered goals. Not only did the Panthers take control of the scoreboard, but they also allowed just two shots on goal by Gustavus in the period.
Quizon’s second goal started the Middlebury onslaught. Lorna Gifis carried the puck through center ice, and dished off to Quizon just as she crossed the blue line. Although she was marked by a defender, Quizon was able to steer the puck through the legs of Meyer for the score at 4:28.
Just over two minutes later, Middlebury scored again to widen the lead to 3-1. Abby Kurtz-Phelan scored right off the faceoff following a Gustie penalty, and just like that the Panthers were off to the races.
Middlebury chipped in two more goals late in the period separated by only 28 seconds to take a dominating 5-1 lead into the second intermission. Margaret MacDonald tallied at 17:24, and Gifis scored again at 17:52 for the Panthers.
“We were really expecting a different second period,” said Carroll. “Their team wanted it more than us, but our team as a whole didn’t move their feet and win the battles. They got that fourth goal, and then to be honest we quit the rest of that period.”
Gustavus had a great opportunity to climb back into the contest in the opening seconds of the third period when Middlebury was called for two penalties on the same whistle. During the ensuing two minute 5-on-3 advantage, the Gusties poured eight shots on net, including one puck that lay on the goal line before being cleared, but Panther goaltender Kate Kogut kept the puck out of the net.
“We played with heart and with emotion and wanted it a lot more,” said Carroll. “What really cost us was that we had that 5-on-3 power play handed to us and had plenty of chances, but we couldn’t pop on in.”
The Gusties continued to pour on the pressure trying to get back into the game, outshooting the Panthers 14-1 in the first 5:30 of the third period. But it was Middlebury that scored the first goal of the period, when Ellen Sergant ripped a slapshot past Meyer while on the power play at 7:57.
Gustavus coach Mike Carroll got a little cute around the 8:30 mark, when he pulled his goaltender while the Gusties were also on the power play. The strategy paid dividends when Brittany Northagen swatted the puck into the goal off a scramble in front of the Panthers net at 9:18. This goal narrowed the Middlebury lead to 6-2.
Carroll pulled his goalie again with under four minutes to go. Gustavus tallied an extra attacker goal at 19:35 when Andrea Peterson found the upper right corner with a wrist shot from the point. But Middlebury answered right back with an empty net goal at 19:41 by Gifis to make the final score 7-3.
“If we were playing with heart and emotion, we were going to do whatever we could to win the game,” said Carroll. “We played a fine third period.”