Ephs falter twice vs. Panthers

Women’s ice hockey (9-13, 5-9 in the NESCAC) suffered a pair of frustrating losses to Middlebury last weekend, taking a tough 6-0 loss on Saturday and a 5-1 defeat on Friday.

Coming off a stunning third period in Friday’s game, Middlebury showed no mercy in the subsequent match on Saturday, as the squad pulled away with a 2-0 lead after the first frame. Heading into the second period, Middlebury continued to dominate offensively, taking 16 shots to Williams’ three. However, Eph goaltender Chloe Billadeau ’15 was able to fend off much of the Panthers’ second-period onslaught, making 15 saves in the frame.

Eventually, Middlebury’s intense pressure at the net paid off with a short-handed goal with 13:05 remaining to make the game 3-0. Middlebury then applied an impressive assault to the women’s defensive end. Panther Grace Waters got her stick on a rebounded shot duritg a power-play opportunity, extending the score to 4-0 with 11 seconds to play in the second.

The Panthers continued to dominate in the third, scoring twice more before the final buzzer. Panther Heather Marrison buried one top shelf with 11:48 to go in the third, while teammate Maggie Melberg found the net with 16 seconds remaining off yet another power-play opportunity, finalizing the score at 6-0 in the Panthers’ favor.

Despite the Ephs’ strong goaltending and defense, the Panthers ended the match with seven power-play opportunities and 42 shots on goal. Billadeau made 36 saves, while the Panther goalies combined to notch 14 saves.

Friday night’s game featured tougher competition for Middlebury, as the women kept their opponent within one goal until the final five minutes. The Panthers’ offense again put Billadeau on her toes during the first period, hitting her with a flurry of shots. The rookie turned away eight tries to keep the game scoreless during the first period.

The Ephs faltered in the second, however. Only 5:32 into the second period, Middlebury drew blood, sending the puck past Billadeau’s right shoulder. Soon after, Williams again succumbed to Middlebury’s hefty 17-6 shot advantage. An impressive slapshot by Panther Madison Styrbicki increased their lead to 2-0 before the close of the second period.

In the third frame, the Ephs retaliated. After only 46 seconds of play, Aimee Dennett ’13 put Williams on the scoreboard off a pass from teammate Kristen Tubbs ’12. Looking to build off this offensive success, the Ephs tried to take advantage of a promising power-play opportunity. Despite several strong shots from Cristina Bravi ’14, the Panthers’ defense remained solid and hung on to a 2-1 lead.

Middlebury’s final and most damaging attack came with only five minutes remaining in the game. After forcing a turnover in the women’s defensive zone, the Panthers put one past Billadeau at 15:07, making the score 3-1 and beginning a streak of three unanswered goals over the course of two minutes. After this goal, Panther Lauren Greer handily won the ensuing faceoff, allowing two undefended Panthers to pressure Billadeau and slip the puck into the net at 15:13. At 16:25, the Panthers scored yet again on a five-on-three power play to seal a 5-1 victory. Billadeau finished the night with 29 saves.

“We’re looking forward to playing Conn. College this weekend at home and getting back on track and focused before playoffs,” said co-captain Hannah Systrom ’12.

The women will face Conn. College at home this Saturday at 7 p.m. and again on Sunday at 3 p.m.