HADLEY, Mass. – Two-time defending champion Middlebury has secured the top seed and home ice advantage throughout the 2013 NESCAC Women’s Ice Hockey Championship. The Panthers will begin their quest for an eighth conference crown when quarterfinal round action gets underway on Saturday. Bowdoin, Amherst and Trinity have also earned the right to host first round contests. The highest remaining seed following the quarterfinal round will host both semifinals and the final from March 2-3. This year’s champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In the 11 year history of the NESCAC Championship, Middlebury (16-6-2, 12-2-2 NESCAC) has reached the final eight times and posted an impressive 21-5 mark. Last year, they pulled out a dramatic 1-0 overtime triumph over Amherst to secure their seventh conference title. Prior to that, Middlebury found the winner’s circle in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2011.
It has been more of the same for the Panthers in 2012-13. Over the course of the regular season, they dropped just two conference contests while holding off Bowdoin and Amherst for the top seed. For the second year in a row, they will face off against eighth seeded Colby (10-14-0, 4-12-0 NESCAC) in the quarterfinal round. Middlebury came out on top 5-1 in last year’s matchup and also swept the Mules on the opening weekend this season. In four all-time tournament meetings between the programs, they own a 3-1 edge. Colby took a two-game set from Wesleyan last weekend to help lock up a spot in this year’s field. The Mules will be looking to move past the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2009. They advanced to the conference finals in 2008 before falling to Amherst.
Bowdoin (18-4-2, 12-3-1 NESCAC) locked up the second seed with a pair of victories at Amherst this weekend. The Polar Bears have been dominant at both ends of the ice this year, outscoring their opponents 57-18. Though they led the NESCAC in both scoring offense and scoring defense, they were edged out by Middlebury by one point in the final standings. Among Bowdoin’s 12 conference wins was a 3-0 triumph over the Panthers on January 18. The Polar Bears will be looking for their fourth straight trip to the conference semifinals when they open up tournament play on Saturday. For the third time in the last four years, their opening round opponent will be seventh seeded Williams (9-14-1, 5-10-1 NESCAC). After dropping five straight league games, the Ephs solidified their position in the championship with a 3-2 overtime victory at Connecticut College on Friday. They tied Bowdoin 1-1 on February 25 before dropping a 5-0 decision the following day. Williams will be looking to move past the first round for the first time since 2006. Bowdoin defeated the Ephs 2-1 in the 2002 title game and also claimed the conference crown in 2004. The Polar Bears appeared in the finals for five consecutive seasons from 2002-06.
Third seeded Amherst (12-10-1, 10-5-1 NESCAC) has emerged as one of the premier teams in the conference in recent years, advancing to the finals six straight times. The Lord Jeffs’ incredible run has included three conference championships (2007, 2008, 2010) and a pair of national titles (2008, 2009). Despite their recent success, they have come up just short against Middlebury in each of the last two NESCAC title games. In addition to their 1-0 overtime setback last February, they fell 4-3 in 2011. Amherst’s 2012-13 season included a two-game sweep of Trinity earlier this month. Up first for the Lord Jeffs will be sixth seeded Hamilton (13-10-1, 7-8-1 NESCAC). The Continentals took a pair of games from Colby this weekend and also skated to a 4-3 overtime victory over Amherst on November 17. The Lord Jeffs came out on top 6-5 in the season opener for both teams the night before. In three previous quarterfinal round meetings, Hamilton owns a 2-1 advantage. The Continentals will begin the weekend in search of their first ever trip to the finals. Their last semifinal appearance came in 2007.
The remaining quarterfinal round matchup will feature fourth seeded Trinity (13-7-4, 8-5-3 NESCAC) and fifth seeded Connecticut College (13-10-1, 7-8-1 NESCAC). The Bantams struggled in the early going before posting a 10-3-1 down the stretch. Included in that run was a two-game sweep of Bowdoin in early February. Trinity opened the season with a 3-0 victory over Connecticut College on November 16. The two teams then played to a 1-1 tie the following afternoon. They have split two previous quarterfinal round meetings. In 2009, the Camels upset the Bantams en route to their first and only appearance in the semifinals. Connecticut College finished in a tie for fifth place with Hamilton but earned the higher seed by virtue of its 2-5-1 record against the top four teams. The Camels’ most notable victory was a 3-2 triumph over Middlebury on February 2.
Results for the NESCAC Women’s Ice Hockey Championship will be available at the completion of each day on the NESCAC website.