Middlebury To Host NCAA Women’s Hockey Championships

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Middlebury’s quest for the program’s sixth national title will take place at home this weekend, as the Panthers will serve as the host site for the 2022 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship. Action begins in Chip Kenyon ’85 Arena starting on Friday, March 18 with a pair of semifinal games, with the championship and consolation games taking place on Saturday, March 19.

The first semifinal on Friday has Plattsburgh State (25-2-1) facing Gustavus Adolphus (24-3-2) at 3:00 p.m., while Middlebury (25-0-0) takes on Elmira (25-2-1) at 7:00 p.m. The semifinal winners will meet for the national championship at 7:00 p.m. the following day, with the third-place contest at 3:00 p.m.

Middlebury previously qualified for the NCAA Tournament from 2002-10 as well as 2012, 2013 and 2015-2018. The Panthers won three-straight national titles from 2004-06, advancing to the finals in 2007 and 2013. In 2020, Middlebury received an at-large bid and was slated to host a quarterfinal game, before the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers captured the 2000 and 2001 American Women’s Hockey Coaches Association (AWCHA) National Championship tournaments. Middlebury has the third-most NCAA Tournament victories (18) in Division III history. This marks the third time the program has hosted the championship weekend, having hosted in 2004 and 2009.

The Panthers enter the tournament riding a 25-game winning streak, which is a program record for consecutive victories.

Middlebury advanced to the semifinals with a 4-0 triumph over Endicott, fueled by a hat trick from rookie Kylie Quinlan and a 20-save shutout by goalie Sophia Merageas.

Friday’s game with Elmira marks the second time this season the teams will have faced off. The Panthers netted a 2-1 victory over the Soaring Eagles on November 27 in the Cardinal/Panther Classic. Overall, this is the 26th meeting between the two schools with Middlebury holding a slight 11-10-4 edge. 

The Panthers have a history with Saturday’s opponent regardless of who they will be facing. Middlebury has won all 11 meetings with Gustavus Adolphus, including a 6-0 victory in the 2001 AWCHA title game, while Plattsburgh State holds a 23-11-4 advantage over the Panthers.

Middlebury is the top defensive team in Division III, giving up a mere 0.64 goals against per game with 11 shutouts. The squad boasts one of the top goalie tandems in the country with rookie Sophia Merageas and senior Caroline Silk both seeing plenty of time in the crease. Merageas is a perfect 18-0-0 with five shutouts, sporting a .78 goals against average (GAA) and a .961 save percentage. She is ranked first nationally in both categories. Silk has won all seven of her starts with four coming via shutouts. She has a minuscule .30 GAA with a .978 save percentage.

On the blue line, a pair of All-NESCAC selections anchor the Panther defensive unit. Junior Claudia Vira was named to the first team, while classmate Eva Hendrikson received second-team laurels. Vira is the leading scorer among defenders with 18 points (6G, 12A), while Hendrikson (3G, 12A) is next. First-year Sabrina Kim has had a strong year with 15 assists, while rookie Cece Ziegler (1G, 5A), senior Alexis Ryan (2G, 2A) and sophomore Julia Johnson (3G, 1A) round out the talented group. Vira and Kim each dished out three assists in the quarterfinal win over Endicott.

Offensively, the Panthers are led by two-time NESCAC Player of the Year Madie Leidt. The senior captain tops the conference in goals (17) and points with 29. In addition, Leidt is second nationally with seven game-winning goals and has recorded a pair of hat tricks this season. Junior Jenna Letterie, an All-NESCAC First-Team honoree, is the conference’s leader in assists (23) and is second in points (28). Senior Katie Hargrave ranks fourth in conference scoring, registering nine goals and 16 assists. Sophomore Cat Appleyard has been a force on the special teams, ranking second in Division III with nine power-play tallies. For the season, she has 24 points (12G, 12A) to rank among the NESCAC leaders. Junior Ashley McDonald has been a key factor on the penalty kill, helping the team rank among the country’s elite in face-off percentage.

Quinlan and rookie Raia Schluter have provided scoring depth for Middlebury this season. Quinlan has eight goals and 12 points, while Schluter has three goals and eight points with all three of her tallies being game-winners.

Head coach Bill Mandigo, the 2022 NESCAC Coach of the Year, is now in his 33rd season at the helm of the Panthers. He has a career record of 623 wins, 158 losses and 48 ties, giving him more wins than any other coach in any division in the history of women’s college hockey.

Mandigo led the team to AWHCA National titles in 2000 and 2001, before taking three-consecutive NCAA Championships in 2004, 2005 and 2006. His teams have also captured 11 NESCAC Championships and have 19 or more wins in 23 of the last 26 seasons.

Elmira earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning its first New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Championship with a 4-0 shutout over Castleton. The Soaring Eagles opened the NCAA Tournament with a 2-1 triumph over Nazareth to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2018.

Elmira enters the weekend on a 15-game winning streak and has allowed only 10 goals during that stretch. Goalie Leonie-Louise Kuehberger ranks among the national leaders in GAA (.94) and save percentage (.958) with nine shutouts.

Offensively, Elmira has six players that have reached double digits in goals this season. Eliza Beaudin leads the team with 17, while Emma Crocker is next with 16. Claire Meeder (13), Morgan Mordini (12), Mary McCafferty  (11) and Holly Riva (10) round out that group, while Mordini also ranks fourth in Division III with 30 assists.

2022 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament

 

Friday, March 18

Semifinals

Gustavus Adolphus (24-3-2) vs. Plattsburgh State (25-2-1) – 3:00 p.m.

Elmira (25-2-1) vs. Middlebury (25-0-0) – 7:00 p.m.

 

Saturday, March 19

Third-Place Game  – 3:00 p.m.

NCAA Championship – 7:00 p.m.

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