Courtesy of Middlebury Sports Information
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Second-seeded Middlebury netted the game's first three goals, as the Panthers posted a 3-1 triumph over third-seeded Hamilton in the NESCAC Semifinals Saturday at Williams. Middlebury (16-7-3) will play for its fourth straight conference title Sunday at 2 p.m. against the top-seeded Ephs. The winner of Sunday's championship contest will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Continentals finished the season at 16-8-2.
The Panthers carried play in a scoreless first period, with their best scoring chance coming on a play that didn't result in a shot on goal. Ellie Barney chipped a loose puck at the top of the crease that fluttered over Hamilton goalie Gab Venne, hit off the top of the crossbar and continued over the net. The Continentals had two good opportunities in the final six minutes with the first coming shorthanded. Missy Segall had a shot from the slot that Middlebury goalie Lin Han denied, while Jenna Jewell hit the right post with a shot from the edge of the left circle.
In the middle stanza, the Panthers got on the scoreboard early, as Shayla Coates redirected a shot from the top of the left circle from Jenna Marotta at the 2:21 mark for her first collegiate goal. Hamilton had a chance to net the equalizer minutes later when Mya Berretta slipped through the Middlebury defense and fired a shot from the slot that Han corralled.
The Middlebury lead grew to two goals just past the midway point of the frame, as the Panthers cashed in on a power play. Eva Hendrikson sent a shot from the point that Sidney Portner redirected behind Venne with 11:21 expired.
Middlebury muted a Continental power play in the opening minutes of the third period and later used a Hamilton player advantage to add to its lead. Madie Leidt broke up the left wing and centered a pass to Jenna Letterie, who lifted the puck over Venne for a shorthanded goal at the 7:08 mark. The Continentals got the goal back in the final stages of that same power play when Nancy Loh tallied from the top of the crease 44 seconds later.
Hamilton pulled Venne for an extra skater with 1:20 remaining, but was only able to muster one shot on goal as the Panthers advanced to the title game.
Han stopped 16-17 shots she faced for Middlebury, while Venne turned aside 26-29 for the Continentals.
During the regular season, Williams won both games against Middlebury by identical 2-1 scores.