MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- Emily Fluke recorded a pair of third-period goals lifting the second-ranked Panthers to an exciting 5-4 come-from-behind victory Tuesday evening in Kenyon Arena. Utica (13-6-0) held a 35-30 edge in shots against Middlebury (14-1-3) but the hosts converted on a pair of powerplay opportunities in the win.
Utica got on the scoreboard first at 11:08 of the first period. Megan Myers scored her team-leading 15th goal of the year. Nearly three minutes later, Emily Coope made it 2-0 when she rifled a shot from the left dot to the upper left corner of the goal after getting passes from Myers and Kristen Beckman off the left boards. Middlebury cut the Utica lead in half nearly two minutes later. Following a Pioneer penalty, Sara Ugalde won the ensuing faceoff back to Carly Watson who made a pass over to Jennifer Krakower for her first goal of the night and fifth of the season.
The score remained that way until just over midway through the second period. At 9:01, Utica gained a two-goal edge via a powerplay goal from Meredith Tice who shot a bouncing puck into the Panther net. Just 45 seconds later after a Utica penalty, the hosts notched their second power play goal for the game. Krakower sent a low line drive through many legs from the left side for her second power play score of the night with an assist from Watson after Ugalde again won the faceoff. Keeping the pressure up, the Panthers knotted the score at 3-3 following a turnover in the Pioneer zone. Pam Schulman and Katie Mandigo worked through the zone and Schulman put the puck away following a rebound of her initial shot.
The final period featured action at both ends of the ice. Utica looked to take the lead 90 seconds in but a shot by Nicole Kieffer hit the left post and veered away. Near the midway point of the period, Middlebury goalie Laura Pinsent made a sprawling save when her momentum was carrying her to the left but she reached back to her right and made a glove save on a shot by Steele-Norton.
The Panthers took the lead when Emily Fluke scored at 13:58 when she deflected on a Watson shot from the point off a pass from Hannah Bielawski. Just over two minutes later, Fluke tallied her third game-winning goal of the season and second in as many games when she broke down the middle of the ice behind the Pioneer defense on pinpoint passes from Madeline Joyce and Krakower. Utica, who outshot the Panthers 22-5 in the third, kept the pucks going at the net and pulled to within one at 5-4 at the 16:35 mark. Gabrielle Schnepp scored on a shot from in front of the net. However, the Pioneers weren’t able to tie the score as the Panthers hung on for the win.