Middlebury will make its first appearance in the NCAA Championship game since '07 (fifth overall) after a 4-1 win over Plattsburgh in a semifinal game played in Superior, Wis. The Panthers will meet the winner of the Gustavus Adolphus/Elmira game at 8:00 p.m. eastern time on Saturday night for the title.
The win avenges two losses this season for the Panthers (20-7-2) at the hands of the Cardinals, who suffer their first loss of the year and finish at 26-1-2. Middlebury is now 3-2 against Plattsburgh in NCAA play, earning victories in the '04 semifinals and '06 title game before falling in the championship in '07 and the quarterfinals a year ago.
Hannah Bielawski had a few good looks early for Middlebury, but Sydney Aveson kept the Panthers off the board. Annabelle Jones was equally as tough on the other end of the ice, denying Chelsea VanGlahnat to keep it a scoreless game at the 7:30 mark.
Middlebury took a 1-0 lead 9:25 into the first period with a power play goal from Lauren Greer, her 11th tally of the season. Bielawski's shot was blocked by a defender's skate, before Greer gathered the puck and quickly spun around with a quick shot to beat Aveson.
Jennifer Krakower was later denied on a power play with a big glove save from Aveson. Jones kept the Panthers up 1-0 late in the first period when she stopped Shannon Stewart with 10 seconds remaining. The Panthers held a 14-9 shots advantage in the first 20 minutes.
Plattsburgh appeared to tie the game just 34 seconds into the second period, but a goal on a high stick was waved off. Middlebury took the momentum back minutes later, when Emily Fluke scored her team-leading 17th goal of the year at the 3:40 mark. Fluke was breaking in all alone and scored with a wrister off the shoulder of Aveson, despite a strong stick-check from behind. That stick-check ending up being a hooking penalty, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize.
Teal Gove cut to the goal 6:50 into the period, but Jones again was equal to the task. The Cardinals had another pair of good looks midway through the period, but Jones cut off a dangerous centering pass from Giovanna Senese and made a nice glove save on a nifty backhanded move by Gove. The Cardinals held a 9-5 shots advantage in the period, with the Panthers leading 19-18 overall with a 2-0 lead
Plattsburgh kept up the pressure with a few good looks and a power play at the 5:17 mark, but were unable to tie the game. The Middlebury defense remained solid, gaining some breathing room with 2:35 remaining when Molly Downey netted her seventh of the year after a scramble in the crease area. The Panthers solidified the win with 17 seconds remaining, when Maggie Woodward netted her second of the season on an empty net.
Jones finished with 27 saves in goals to earn the win, while Aveson made 19 stops for the Cardinals. Plattsburgh held a 10-4 shots advantage in the third period, finishing the game with a 28-23 edge.
--- Middlebury Sports Information
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