Women’s hockey wins NESCACs for second time in school history

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The women completed season sweeps of both Middebury and Amherst to claim the NESCAC title in Lansing Chapman Rink. Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

No. 7 women’s ice hockey (20–4–3) won its second-ever NESCAC title, defeating No. 18 Amherst in a semifinal game on Saturday and knocking off No. 9 Middlebury, last year’s conference champion, in the final on Sunday. 

The Ephs clinched an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The women host No. 8 Norwich, the defending national champion, tonight at 7 p.m. in the first ever women’s NCAA tournament game to be played at Lansing Chapman Rink.

“I am so happy for the group of six seniors,” head coach Meghan Gillis said after the NESCAC final. “They knew what they wanted and got the rest of the team on the same page to make it happen.”

The victories brought the Ephs to a program-record 20 wins, tying the single-season mark set by the 2000–2001 team. This weekend also marked the first time the women had beaten Middlebury three times in a season and the first time that they had defeated Amherst three times in a year.

“I am so proud of every member of our team,” Gillis told the Record. “Every single person has sacrificed the ‘me’ for the ‘we’ and is truly happy for the success of what we do as a group and not worried about the individual. That’s pretty amazing that they can do that.”

Facing Amherst on Saturday, the Ephs scored early in the first period and maintained their advantage to win 3-1.

The Ephs took the lead when co-captain Annie Rush ’19 wrapped a pass from the right side of the net around to defender Brynn Puppe ’21 in the far-left corner of the Amherst zone. Puppe fired a slap shot into the upper-left corner. For the remainder of the period, the two first-year goalies, Chloe Heiting ’22 for the Ephs and Caitlin Walker for the Mammoths, prevented either team from finding the net.

Halfway through the second period, the women received a power play opportunity after a hooking call against Amherst. During this advantage, assistant captain Abby Brustad ’19 skated around a defender and, assisted by Puppe and Mia Carroll ’20, scored from the far-right side of net to make it 2-0.

Amherst, however, responded during its own power play goal after a tripping penalty on Amanda Reisman ’20 with 4:53. Shortly into the advantage, Amherst’s Angelina Wiater, assisted by seniors Jamie McNamara and Sarah Wagner, fired past Heiting with a hard slap shot.

Walker held off the Eph offense, keeping the score at 2-1, until 12:30 into the third period. The women scored when Michaela O’Connor ’21, assisted by Reisman and Avery Dunn ’21, flipped the puck up with a backhand over Walker’s left shoulder.

Despite pulling Walker with a few minutes left in the game, the Mammoths could not get another shot past Heiting, who saved 27 of 28 Amherst attempts. 

“I thought that we came out a little bit sloppy, but then we settled in and played a more composed game,” Gillis said. “I thought lots of different people made key plays at different moments.”

Advancing to the championship game for the third time in program history, the women ended Middlebury’s three-year run as defending NESCAC champions on Sunday. The Ephs outlasted the Panthers 3-2.

Middlebury center Madie Leidt found the net with 3:30 left in the first period for the game’s first goal. The women equalized minutes later when Puppe fired a shot from just right of where she scored the day before for the Ephs’ first goal.

The Ephs were then able to pull ahead early in the second period when Reisman deflected in a shot from Carroll at 3:35.

After a series of penalties from both sides, the Panthers were able to capitalize on a four-on-three advantage when a shot deflected by Anna Zumwinkle, assisted by Alexis Ryan, found its way to the back of the net at 8:53 into the second to tie the game again.

The Ephs finally took the lead for good with 10:52 left in the final period when Meghan Halloran ’21 scored off a backdoor pass from Delaney Szlezyngier ’22.

“The composure of first-year defenseman Delaney Szlezyngier on the game winning goal to find Meghan Halloran back door was incredible,”  Gillis said.

With less than two minutes left in the game, the Panthers pulled their goaltender. While the extra player on the ice appeared to pay off when a Middlebury shot arched over Heiting and snuck under the crossbar, the goal was disallowed after a lengthy review due to a high sticking call.

“I was just hopeful that [the officials] saw what we saw and that the right call would be made,” Gillis commented after the game regarding the review. 

After time expired, the women rushed onto the ice to celebrate. “We all threw our gloves and sticks in the air and ran out to our goalie,” Reisman said. “Some people just couldn’t believe what happened. I guess there just aren’t even words to describe how we were feeling.” 

With her 2 goals and assist last weekend, Puppe was named NESCAC Player of the Week. 

The women, who appeared in the 2003 and 2014 tournaments, will look for their first NCAA tournament win in school history tonight.