#1 Middlebury advances to NCAA Championship with 3-2 win over #3 Elmira

Middlebury’s top-ranked women’s hockey team earned a berth in the NCAA National Championship Game, earning a 3-2 win over third-placed Elmira on Friday night in front of a huge crowd at Kenyon Arena. The Panthers (26-0-0) will face Gustavus Adolphus (25-3-2) for the program’s fourth NCAA title and sixth overall on Saturday at 7 p.m., while Plattsburgh State and Elmira will skate in the third-place contest at 3:00 p.m. The Soaring Eagles (25-3-1) saw their 15-game winning streak come to an end with the loss

Tickets will be free to all spectators for both games and can be picked up at the Peterson Family Athletics Complex box office beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 19.

The Panthers, the only remaining undefeated team, have a shot at becoming the first program in Division III history to finish with a perfect record. Middlebury’s last appearance in the league game was in 2013 when they finished runners-up.

The teams played a quick opening period with Middlebury getting the first scoring chance just after halfway. Jenna Letterie skated to the left wing and fired a low shot that Elmira goalkeeper Leonie-Louise Kuehberger deflected with her pad. The Soaring Eagles responded with an opportunity a few minutes later when Claire Elfring fired a low shot from the left circle that the Panthers keeper Sophia Merageas expelled with his left skate. Middlebury ended the period with a powerful penalty kill with Caroline Cutter coming on with a key blocked shot and Merageas corralling a point attempt by Jenny Heath.

The hosts opened the scoring with 11:50 on the clock midway through the period when apple tree for cat broke a one-timer from the right side of the net on a short stream of Katie Hargrave. The count was Appleyard’s 10th power-play goal of the season and 13th overall. The Soaring Eagles tied the game a minute later when Eliza Beaudin fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle between Merageas and the post. The Panthers regained their one-goal lead with 7:16 to go, as Molly MacQueen won a puck battle in the corner and put Kylie Quinlan in goal and slipped a shot around Kuehberger for her fourth in the past two games.

Middlebury earned a two-goal cushion with 8:13 expired in the final stanza, as Letterie braced Madie Leidt on the doorstep, who redirected the puck inside the left post for his team-leading 18th goal of the season. The Soaring Eagles fell back to within a score with 4:14 to go, as Holley Riva charged in the net and slapped in a perfect cross ball from Erika Goleniak to make it 3-2.

Elmira retired Kuehberger for an extra skater in the final 1:28, but the Panthers’ top-ranked defense didn’t allow a shot to keep the final count at 3-2.

Merageas finished with 16 saves to improve to 19-0-0 for Middlebury, while Kuehberger recorded 29 saves on 32 shots.

Elmira became only the third team this season to score more than one goal in a game against the Panthers, who have allowed a goal or less in 23 of their 26 games.

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