Courtesy of Amherst Sports Information
HARTFORD, Conn. – After a hard fought battle that broke the record for the longest NESCAC Tournament contest, Nick Bondra netted the game-winner in the 91st minute to push the No. 3 Amherst past No. 2 Wesleyan, 1-0 and into the NESCAC Final.
With the win, Amherst improves to 15-6-4 on the season, while Wesleyan falls to 16-8-2 overall. Amherst returns to the ice on Sunday, March 3 when it battles the winner of the other semifinal between No. 4 Hamilton at No. 1 Trinity at 2 p.m.
Amherst had a great scoring opportunity 3:10 into the battle, but Mithell Shults' shot from point-blank was denied by Wesleyan goaltender Tim Sestak.
The Cardinals' best chance to score during the first period came at the 14:10 mark with Spencer Fox sending a pass from the right faceoff circle to Tyler Wyatt, however, his one-timer from the slot was denied by Michael Cullen, Amherst's netminder.
Out of the first intermission, the Cardinals looked to get on the board with 9:10 gone during a power play, but Walker Harris' one-timer from the high slot was denied. Countering 48 seconds later, the Mammoths' nearly broke the deadlock on a 3-v-2 rush, but Phil Johansson's shot was denied by a stick save from Sestak.
The Cardinals looked for the game-winner with 2:03 remaining in regulation when Andy Espinoza sent a pass from the goal line to Harris, but Harris' blast from the right faceoff circle was denied via a highlight reel, sprawling stop by Cullen.
At the 18:27 mark, Amherst had its final chance to end the contest in regulation, but Jack Fitzgerald's breakaway attempt went just wide right, forcing the contest into overtime.
After 30 minutes of scoreless overtime action, it was Bondra that played hero for the Mammoths, one-timing P.J.Conlon's offering from the high slot over the blocker of Sestak to end the marathon battle.
Cullen (9-3-1) recorded 39 saves for Amherst in the winning effort, while Sestak (14-5-2) registered a NESCAC Tournament record 65 save for Wesleyan.