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There’s a familiar feel to the NESCAC standings, but there’s something different about this weekend’s matchup between frontrunner Middlebury and second-place Bowdoin. The Panthers enter the weekend unbeaten but far from untested with nearly half of their victories by two goals or less. Meanwhile, the Polar Bears will be without several regulars due to injury, including All-NESCAC senior goaltender Cat MacEachern. But the best of rivalries make for the best of drama. On alumni weekend in Brunswick, Maine, the matchup that has decided the NESCAC for the past three seasons still promises to have plenty of verve.

No. 1 Middlebury (15-0-0 overall, 9-0-0 NESCAC)

Top Scorers: Annmarie Cellino, Fr., F (13-10-23), Shannon Sylvester, Jr., F (7-15-22), Abby Kurtz-Phelan, Jr., F (9-12-21)
Top Goaltender: Kate Kogut, Sr. (11-0-0, 1.61, .907)
Scoring Offense: 4.73 (5th)
Scoring Defense: 1.33 (2nd)
Penalty Minutes: 9.3 (33rd)
Power Play: 25 of 82, 30.5% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 61 of 64, 95.3% (2nd)

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Emily Quizon entered the season a proven offensive commodity. Coach Bill Mandigo said back in November that freshman Annmarie Cellino had a chance to be a special player and she leads the Panthers in scoring. In addition, the junior tandem of Shannon Sylvester and Abby Kurtz-Phelan has put together a breakout campaign thus far and given Middlebury a consistent, potent alternative to the Quizon-Cellino combination up front.

Mandigo says the key to Middlebury’s progression has been more the intangible (i.e. desire and competitiveness) than the tangible. He feels two juniors, defensemen Shannon Tarrant and Emily McNamara, have both played far better than their statistics would indicate. He also stressed the importance of senior goaltender Kate Kogut in providing the kind of steadying influence critical to allowing Middlebury to send multiple players strong to the puck all over the ice.

No. 8 Bowdoin (9-5-0 overall, 7-2-0 NESCAC)

Top Scorers: Meghan Gillis, Jr., F (9-9-18), Katie Forney, Jr., F (7-9-16), Kristen Cameron, So., D (7-8-15)
Top Goaltenders: Cat MacEachern, Sr. (6-5-0, 2.10, .909), Emileigh Mercer, Fr. (3-0-0, 1.98, .864)
Scoring Offense: 4.07 (9th)
Scoring Defense: 2.07 (10th)
Penalty Minutes: 10.4 (26th)
Power Play: 8 of 50, 16.0% (T-20th)
Penalty Kill: 61 of 68, 89.7% (10th)

My kingdom for a full, healthy lineup. Coach Michelle Amidon started the season with a short bench while a number of her players helped Bowdoin’s field hockey team to the NCAA semifinals. She also knew Cat MacEachern was never 100 percent this season, but held out hope her senior netminder could make it to the finish line anyway. Unfortunately, the talented senior is now out for the year and will undergo hip surgery. A tough schedule hasn’t helped either as Bowdoin’s five losses have come by a total of just six goals to the likes of Middlebury, No. 2 Plattsburgh (twice), and No. 4 Manhattanville. All that said, the Polar Bears have strung together five straight wins, rookie goaltender Emileigh Mercer has had an opportunity to build some confidence with a few starts ahead of this weekend, and one of the nation’s most balanced offenses is finding the net with nine players nestled between four and nine goals on the season.