Seventh-seeded women’s ice hockey (8-16-1, 6-9-1 in the NESCAC) fell to second-seeded Middlebury (17-3-4, 12-2-2) 3-1 in the NESCAC quarterfinals after an epic struggle that ended the Ephs’ tumultuous season. Coming off last weekend’s victories over Wesleyan and Hamilton, the women carried momentum into the game, hoping to achieve a massive upset over NESCAC-favorite Middlebury. Demonstrating immense will and extraordinary tenacity, the Ephs held the Panthers scoreless until 1:26 left in the second, tied the game up in the third and finally succumbed to two unanswered Panther goals in the final minutes of the game.
From the first drop of the puck, it was obvious that the game would see much struggling between the two teams, and the grit and determination of the Ephs surprised the Panthers. The weeks of physical and mental preparation on the part of the women were readily apparent in the form of puck control, confidence and calm collection that had been missing from previous games. “We knew going into this game that it was going to be a challenge, that we would have to battle for every break and that is exactly what we did,” co-captain Sam Tarnasky ’09 said. “Every single one of our teammates gave everything they had and left it all on the ice.”
The first period saw no scores for either team, with goalie Sara Plunkett ’10 making 19 saves while Panther net-minder Alexi Bloom made five. Williams spent a large portion of the game in the penalty box, giving Middlebury four power plays. The Ephs received only one power play opportunity on Panther Heather McCormack’s penalty at 6:51 in the period. Combining precision on the penalty kill with Plunkett’s amazing goaltending, Williams ably held a 0-0 tie through the first period.
The Ephs returned to the game with the same will they showed in the first period, continuing to do battle and offer staunch resistance to the Panthers’ scoring attempts. The two teams spent equal amounts of time in the penalty box with no scores for either team. After a few frenzied minutes in the end of the second period, the Ephs gave up a goal following a scramble in the defensive zone.
The Ephs entered the third period on a power play, but failed to register a point. With 5:00 on the clock, however, the team rallied with a textbook two-on-one rush to tie the game up at one apiece. Tracey Ferriter ’10 slid a pass to Jacqueline Berglass ’11 who tucked the puck past the Panther goalie. The goal was Berglass’ third of the season and Ferriter’s team-leading 21st point. Unfortunately, both the expanse of Middlebury’s Olympic-sized rink and the depth of its bench began to wear on the women, who gave up two more goals and finally lost 3-1 to the Panthers.
The game marked the end of a season strewn with ups and downs and marked by adversity which, nevertheless, exposed the tenacity and the heart of the women’s ice hockey team. The team graduates three seniors, co-captains Joey Lye ’09 and Tarnasky, as well as Mallory Green ’09. The game also marked Head Coach Shannon Bryant’s final game behind the bench.
“It’s never a good feeling when something you love comes to an end, but we put up a good fight, and I enjoyed battling along side this particular group of girls,” Lye said.
Green agreed. “It was a really good game, and a great way, if there is such a thing, to end both the season and my college career,” she said.
The game marks the end of the Ephs’ season, while Middlebury will advance to play Colby in the NESCAC semi-finals. Hopefully the returning members of the team will take the same heart and effort and apply it next year.