RUTLAND, Vt. – The Spartans dropped a tough non-conference conteston Saturday afternoon to fourth-ranked Middlebury at Spartan Arena, 5-2.
Castleton was outshot by the opposition 46-20, but managed to keep the game competitive by killing off four of its five penalties. Anna Daniels and Molly Howard scored in the contest, as the Spartans moved to 6-4-1 on the season with the losing effort. The Panthers improved to 5-2 win the win.
Middlebury struck first just 3:48 into the opening period of play when Emily Fluke notched her fifth goal of the year. Jessica Young had the puck behind the net and slipped a pass to Fluke just wide of the post. After gathering the pass, the senior forward wristed a shot top shelf to grab an early 1-0 lead for the visitors.
Less then 30 seconds later, the fourth-ranked team in the nation doubled their advantage to 2-0. Castleton's Paula Stephens saved the initial shot, but Anna Van Kula finished a backhand off the rebound to give the visitors a two-goal lead with 15:49 remaining in the initial frame.
At the 16:13 marker in the first, the Spartans got one back when Daniels snagged her third goal of 2014. On a Panther turnover, Daniels slipped past the Middlebury back line and rifled a shot from the point that bounced off Panthers goalie Madeline Marsh's arm and into the back of the net to cut the Spartans deficit back to one.
Just 1:30 into the middle frame, Middlebury nearly extended its lead back to two, but a pair of saves from Stephens, including a diving stick save, kept the Spartans within one score.
However, at the 13:22 mark in the second, Maddie Winslow pushed the Panthers advantage back to two. On a breakaway opportunity, the freshman forward deked Castleton's goalie and finished the puck home to make it 3-1 in favor of the visitors.
Middlebury capitalized on a power play opportunity with forty seconds remaining in the second stanza to grab a 4-1 lead. Carly Watson delivered a shot from the point that hit the inside of the post and flew into the back of the net.
Just over four minutes into final frame, Howard scored for the second time this year to get the Spartans back within two. The puck was passed from the baseline into the crease where Howard knocked it home to make it 4-2.
Castleton nearly scored its third goal of the game just past the hallway point in the third, but Daniel's slap shot deflected off the post and was cleared from the zone.
At the 13:54 mark in the third, Victoria Laven notched her second goal of the season to secure a 5-2 victory for the Panthers.
In net, Stephens suffered her second loss of the year for the Spartans after stopping 41 shots in the game, while Madeline Marsh made 18 saves to keep her perfect record intact at 4-0.
This contest marked the final game of 2014 for the Spartans, as Castleton returns to action after Christmas Break when they face Potsdam St. on January 6 at 3 pm.