MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The Norwich University women's ice hockey team overcame two separate two-goal deficits on Saturday versus the host Panthers of Middlebury College to secure a 5-4 overtime victory in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship.
The Cadets, ranked fourth nationally by both D3hockey.com and USCHO.com, improve to 23-5-1 on the season and will travel to Adrian, Mich. to take on Plattsburgh State University at 3 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 17. Middlebury, ranked fifth and sixth in the nation by the aforementioned organizations, wraps up its season with a 20-6-2 mark.
Norwich, playing in the longest game in the team's 10-year history, trailed by a two-goal margin on two separate occasions in the contest, but after a scoreless first overtime period, freshman Sophie McGovern (Hermantown, Minn.) forced home a wrap-around attempt by sophomore Bryn Labbe (Calgary, Alberta) only 2:28 into the second overtime stanza to send the Cadets back to the NCAA Semifinals.
"Somehow, we just fought back and didn't want to be passive," remarked Head Coach Mark Bolding following the postseason victory. "Our team wanted to go and the leadership we have just took over. To come back from two separate two-goal deficits is probably lucky, but it's also a credit to our kids and their work ethic."
The host Panthers opened the scoring only 3:13 into the contest as Kelly Sherman roofed a cross ice, left-to-right pass by Maddie Winslow on a two-on-one breakout. The Cadets settled down shortly thereafter and ended the first period holding statistical advantages in face-off victories (10-to-6) and blocked shots (10-to-3).
Shortly after a Norwich power play, Winslow put the Panthers up by a 2-0 score after putting home a rebound past Cadets goaltender Laurie King (Waddington, N.Y.). The initial Middlebury shot by Haley LaFontaine was halted by King, but Winslow crashed the blue paint and poked the loose puck between the pads of the Norwich netminder.
Sophomore Adrieana Rossini (Malden, Mass.) set up her team's first goal of the game below the Middlebury goal line. Skating around a toppled Panthers defender, Rossini was able to feed junior Sarah Schwenzfeier (Hingham, Mass.) near the right post. A simple deflection past the Middlebury goaltender halved the hosts advantage, 2-1, with 9:55 left in the second.
Norwich dramatically tied the game at two only 39 seconds later. A shot by Schwenzfeier was initially halted by Julia Neuburger, but the rebound caromed straight up into the air and behind the sprawling Middlebury goaltender. Labbe crashed the left post, tapping the puck past Neuburger to knot the score at two.
With under a minute to play in the second quarter, Middlebury freshman Anna Zumwinkle wristed one home from just outside the right face-off circle to give her team momentum heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation time. Carly Watson and Lizzie Sheline were credited with assists on the play.
The Panthers added insurance early in the third period as Rachael St. Clair spun around and fired a shot into the wide-open goal to the left of King, producing a 4-2 lead for Middlebury. A shot by Middlebury was halted in front of the Norwich goaltender by Katherine Jackson. Sliding to the right to play the puck was King, but a nifty pass by Jackson caught the stick of St. Clair, who fired it home into the open goal.
Junior Kim Tiberi (Raleigh, N.C.) one-timed a nifty pass from Schwenzfeier that eluded the grasp of Neuburger to cut Middlebury's lead to 4-3 with 3:39 left in the third period. Schwenzfeier, below the goal line on the power play, was able to sneak her pass through the Middlebury defenders before it was blasted home.
Team captain Adelle Murphy (Roseau, Minn.) evened the score at four only 45 seconds later. With the Panthers defense playing on its heels, an aggressive fore-check by the Cadets produced a loose puck at the top of the blue paint. The puck, tapped out by Tiberi, caught the stick of Murphy who snuck a shot just inside the left post to dramatically tie the game.
King finished the game with a career-high 41 saves, backstopping her team to the victory. Neuburger turned aside 34 shots on net, yielding five goals in the losing effort.
McGovern paced the Cadets with two goals while Schwenzfeier joined Tiberi with a goal and an assist. Labbe tallied two assists for Norwich and Rossini added a single helper for the Cadets.
Norwich will head west for the next round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, facing a familiar foe in Plattsburgh State.
"It's exciting because they are a well-coached team, winning the NCAA Championship three times in a row," said Bolding. "Both of us have to head out west, but we'll be playing a team that has a lot of confidence and some weapons, but they're a certain style and we're a certain style – it's a neutral site and we're going to try and carry our own momentum into the game on Friday."