Panther/Cardinal Classic Preview

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While the PrimeLink ShootOut and some other men's tournaments garner a lot of attention every Thanksgiving weekend, rarely dfo any stack up with the national pedigree that will be on display in Middlebury where four of the top six ranked women's teams will take to the ice in this season's Panther/Cardinal Classic. Formerly dubbed the Panther/Cardinal or Cardinal/Panther Classic, it has long-running been the premiere women's holiday weekend tournament and that remains the case yet again this year.

For the second year in a row Saturday's opener will feature a rematch of the drama-filled 2017 national championship game as No. 2 Plattsburgh State faces off against No. 6 Adrian.

This season the hosting rights rotate back to Middlebury and the host Panthers enter the weekend as the No. 4 ranked team in the Women's Top 10. Joining them in this year's illustrious field will be No. 1 Elmira, No. 2 Plattsburgh State and No. 6 Adrian. This year's field boasts an impressive 19-1 combined record so far this season.

Often the elite gathering of women's teams aside from the NCAA tournament in a given year, this weekend's tournament should once again live up to the billing as four elite teams will no doubt make for four terrific games that will not only entertain fans, but perhaps offer a little more insight as to how four of the top women's teams stack at this point in the season.

When: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 24 & Dec. 25

Where: Kenyon Ice Arena; Middlebury, Vt.

Who: No.1 Elmira, No. 2 Plattsburgh State, No. 4 Middlebury, No. 6 Adrian

Schedule (all times EST): 11/24 - Elmira @ Middlebury, 3:00 p.m.; Elmira v. Middlebury, 7:00 p.m.  --  11/25 - Third Place Game, 2:00 p.m.; Championship Game, 5:00 p.m.


Though it has existed under a few different names, the tournament make-up has been largely intact since the Middlebury Tournament in November of the 2005-06 season. The following year, Plattsburgh hosted the Plattsburgh Tournament and the Cardinals and Panthers have alternated hosting rights ever since and ushered in the Cardinal/Panther Classic moniker in 2009. This year, it's Middlebury's turn to host and the Panthers will be looking to score their first Classic title since winning the inaugural crown in 2005.

Past Champions

2005: Middlebury
2006: Plattsburgh State
2007: Plattsburgh State
2008: Plattsburgh State
2009: Elmira
2010: Amherst
2011: Elmira
2012: Plattsburgh State
2013: Plattsburgh State
2014: Plattsburgh State
2015: Plattsburgh State
2016: Plattsburgh State
2017: Elmira

Plattsburgh took home the title from 2006-08 while Elmira scored the championship in 2009, Amherst in 2010, and Elmira again cashed in and took the championshp in 2011.  Since then it had been all Plattsburgh as the Cardinals have won five straight titles dating back to 2012, but the streak was finally snapped a year ago as Elmira claimed its third title with a 4-2 championship win over their Cardinals. Plattsburgh's eight championships are the most by any team.

Aside from this year's participants once again all being ranked in the top six of the latest Women's Top 10, it's possible to dig a bit deeper to see the true national prowess of this weekend's field.

A women's Division III national champion was first crowned in 2002 and, in all but five seasons since, someone in this year's Classic field has won the national title. Elmira won the first two in 2002 and 2003 and Middlebury followed with three straight from 2004-06. Plattsburgh then went back-to-back in 2007 and 2008, Elmira scored its third title in 2013 before Plattsburgh rattled off four straight championships from 2014-17.

In the 17 seasons a women's national championship has been held there have been 64 Frozen Four appearances and this field accounts for 31 of them, 30 of which have been claimed by the East Region trio. Furthermore, the Classic participants have made a collective 18 national title game appearances. 

The most recent meeting's between Saturday's opponents both came in last year's Classic semifinals where Elmira topped Middlebury 4-1 and Plattsburgh edged Adrian, 1-0.




The top-ranked Soaring Eagles enter the weekend a perfect 5-0 and have held the top spot in the poll since downing defending national champion Norwich, 4-2, on the season's opening weekend. Since then Elmira has notched weekend sweeps of Lebanon Valley and Neumann and has outscored its opponents 28-4 on the year.  Senior forward Katie Granato leads all scorers with 14 points and a nation-leading 11 goals, while fellow senior forwards Maddy Jerolman (4-5-9) and Maddie Evangelous (2-5-7) follow on the scoresheet. Senior defenseman Meg Leahy (0-7-7) is tops among Elmira blueliners in scoring.  While sophomore Elizabeth Hanson along with freshmen Stephanie Martin and Emelia Helms-Leslie all have already received starts in goal, Martin has claimed three of them and holds a 3-0 mark with a 1.00 goals-against-averasge and .927 save percentage. The Soaring Eagles' power play has converted on 10 of its 20 chances for a blistering 50% conversion rate, while their penalty kill has stifled 16 of 17 opposition chances.



As is usually the case this time of year for perennial power Middlebury, it remains a bit of an unknown compared to some other teams as due to the late NESCAC state it has played just twice so far. But, the Panthers' season got off to a strong start a week ago two games last weekend as they topped Trinity 4-0 nd 4-1 in a two-game league set. Freshman forward Katie Hargrave scored three times on the weekend while senior defenseman Jenna Marrota tallied twice and freshman forward Jenna Letterie added a goal and an assist. Sophomore forward Madie Leidt chipped in with three assists while sophomore blueliner Alexis Ryan chipped in with a pair of helpers. All told, 11 skaters hit the scoresheet on the weekend. In goal, junior Lin Han and sophomore Anna Goldstein each received a start against Trinity as Han allowed one goal on 13 shots while Goldstein pitched a 24-save shutout



The Cardinals roll in the weekend with a perfect 5-0 mark and stand as the second-ranked team in the nation. Plattsburgh holds weekend sweeps over Cortland and Potsdam and also lay claim to a 2-0 win over defending national champion Norwich. Most impressively, the Cardinals have yet to even allow a goal this season as they have outscored the opposition 26-0. Sophomore Annie Katonka (3-5-8) in scoring and is closely followed by senior forwards Mackenzie Millen (2-5-7) and Courtney Moriarty (4-2-6), along with sophomore forward Kaitlin Drew-Mead (3-3-6). A trio of defenseman in sophomore Abby Brush (4-1-5), freshman Hanna Rose (3-2-5) and junior Hannah Kiraly have all contributed signficantly on the back end. In goal, it's been the Kassi Abbott show as the senior has started all fives games so far, stopping all 100 shots she has faced and is a key reason the Cardinals' penalty kill is a perfect 25/25 on the year.



After splitting an opening weekend series at No. 7 UW-River Falls, the Bulldogs have won six straight to stand at 7-1. Aside from the win over River Falls, Adrian has scored NCHA series sweeps over Northland, Trine and St. Scholastica. Senior forwards Tory Harshman (3-4-7) and Kortney Diaz (4-2-6) have paced the offense thus far, while junior forwards Brianna Buchanan (1-4-5) and Jacqueline White (0-5-5) along with senior defenseman Shelly Czarnowczan (2-3-5) also stand among the team leaders. Sophomore goaltender Kate Turner has garnered the majority of action in net and boasts a 5-1 record with a 2.15 goals-against-average and .889 save percentage. The Bulldogs penalty kill has turned back 31 of 33 chances while it's power play has struggled, having scored just three times in 25 opportunitues.




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