Courtesy Middlebury Athletic Communications
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Amherst will make its first trip to the NCAA Championship game after earning a 3-2 win over Middlebury in a semifinal contest played at Middlebury College’s Kenyon Arena. The Jeffs will meet Elmira, a 3-0 winner over Wisconsin-River Falls, in the title game on Saturday night at 7:00. The Panthers will take part in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. against the Falcons. The meeting was the fourth of the year between the two schools, with Amherst winning both regular season match-ups before a Middlebury win in the NESCAC title game.
Amherst took advantage of a power play 5:20 into the game as Tarasai Karega scored with a backhander after a nifty move in the crease. The tally was her 10th of the season as the Jeffs took an early 1-0 lead. Amherst struck again on the power play late in the period, taking a 2-0 advantage at the 17:00 mark. Julia Koch took a pass from Karega at the right face-off circle and snapped a shot past a screened Alexi Bloom. Amherst ended the period with a slim 6-4 shots advantage.
Middlebury failed on its first power play of the second period, before cutting the lead in half with a power play tally at the 4:00 mark. Molly Vitt netted her 11th of the season as she scored from the far side on a rebound after Ashley Bairos’ shot was saved by Krystyn Elek. Amherst answered with its third power play goal of the night, as Megan Curry converted a quick crossing pass from Karega for her seventh of the year at 12:06. Very few shots were taken through the first two periods, with each team totaling a dozen on goal.
Middlebury had an unsuccessful power play in the third before making it a one-goal game with goal from Annmarie Cellino on the power play at the 12:35 mark. Heather McCormack made a nice fed to Cellino, who netted the 65th of her career with a snapshot to the top left corner of the net. Amherst suffered its only failed power play of the night later in the period, as they went 3-4 in the game. The Panthers threatened late, including 1:38 of play with their netminder pulled, but could not score the equalizer.
Elek made 17 saves for the win, while Bloom made 15 stops on the night. Middlebury held a slim 19-18 shots advantage in the contest.