THE STORYLINE: No. 4/5 nationally-ranked Norwich (22-5-1, 15-2-0 NEHC) embarks on the quest for its second NCAA Division III National Championship on Saturday when it travels to Middlebury College for a NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal matchup in Kenyon Arena at 3 p.m.
The Cadets are coming off winning their seventh NEHC Tournament title in the last nine seasons with a 5-0 victory over Manhattanville on Saturday at Kreitzberg Arena. The title was Norwich's fifth in the last six seasons, all coming on home ice. NU has been the top seed the NEHC Tournament the last seven seasons. The Cadets also defeated Univ. of New England 4-2 in the semifinals and Plymouth State 5-0 in the quarterfinals en route to the title.
Middlebury (19-6-2, 11-4-1 NESCAC) is coming off winning its second straight NESCAC Tournament title and eighth overall with a 4-1 win over Amherst College on Sunday. The Panthers have won seven straight games coming into Saturday's showdown.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth to the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship weekend is on the line on Saturday. The winner will punch one of four tickets to D-III women's ice hockey's ultimate weekend that will be hosted at the highest remaining seed of the western schools.
Norwich is looking to make its sixth semifinal appearance after missing out last year. Middlebury is looking to make its ninth semifinal appearance overall and second straight. The Panthers won three national championships in a row from 2004-2006.
Saturday marks the 11th all-time meeting between Norwich and Middlebury in women's ice hockey. Norwich holds a 6-3-1 lead in the all-time series with Middlebury. The Panthers beat Norwich 5-3 earlier this season on Jan. 31 at Kenyon Arena.
The two schools have only met twice previously in the NCAA Tournament with Middlebury downing the Cadets 3-2 in overtime in the 2013 NCAA Quarterfinals at Kreitzberg Arena. NU got revenge two years later with a 3-2 win of its own in the 2015 NCAA Quarterfinals at Kenyon Arena.
Norwich is led by Mark Bolding '95 who is in his 10th season at the helm of the program. He has compiled a 215-59-17 record for a .768 winning percentage. Bolding won three straight AHCA Coach of the Year titles from 2010-2012. He has been named the NEHC Coach of the Year twice, with the latest coming in 2015.
Middlebury is led by Bill Mandigo, who is in his 29th season at the helm of the Panther women's hockey program. He is the all-time NCAA Women's College Hockey career wins leader with 541 victories to go along with 141 losses and 39 ties. He is a three-time AHCA National Coach of the Year, winning the award in 2001, 2004 and 2005.
ABOUT THE CADETS
Norwich is led offensively by junior forward Sarah Schwenzfeier, who has 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points. Junior defenseman Kim Tiberi (12-24-36) ranks among the top D-III offensive blue liners. She sits three points away from tying Sarianne Lynn's '12 record for points by a defenseman in a season. Schwenzfeier also just passed Lynn for 10th on the NU all-time career points list. She has 81 points in 87 career games.
In goal, junior Laurie King is 18-2-1 with a 1.08 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. King earned three NEHC Goalie of the Week awards and was named to the NEHC All-Conference Second Team.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS
Middlebury is led offensively by junior NESCAC First Team selection Jessica Young, who has 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points. Classmate Maddie Winslow earned NESCAC Second Team All-Conference honors with 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points.
Senior defenseman Carly Watson (6-15-21) was named to the NESCAC First Team All-Conference along with Young. Junior Janka Hlinka (8-12-20) and NESCAC Rookie of the Year Lizzie Sheline (8-8-16) round out Middlebury's top-five offensive leaders.
In goal, junior Julia Neuburger and freshman Lin Han have split the starts. Neuberger has a 12-3-0 record with a 1.19 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. Han has a 7-3-2 record with a 1.54 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
By the Numbers: (national rank)
Norwich: 4.36 (3rd)
Middlebury: 2.81 (16th)
Norwich: 1.32 (7th)
Middlebury: 1.37 (8th)
PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 7.8 minutes (48th)
Middlebury: 7.4 minutes (51st)
Norwich: 31.0 percent (2nd)
Middlebury: 17.8 percent (20th)
Norwich: 85.0 percent (31st)
Middlebury: 88.5 percent (12th)