Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information
MIDDLEBURY — Amherst scored the game-winning goal just 13 seconds after Middlebury tied the game in the final period, lifting the Mammoths to a 2-1 win over the Panthers in the NESCAC Championship on Sunday in Kenyon Arena. The title for Amherst (17-5-5) was the program’s first since 2010 and the Mammoths also claimed the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Second-ranked Middlebury (21-3-3) seeks an at-large bid in the tournament with the field being announced on Monday.
Defense dominated the opening 20 minutes, as the teams played the initial eight minutes without registering a shot on goal. Middlebury’s best chance came on a good keep in along the left boards by Morgan Griffin, who fired s hot from the faceoff circle that Mammoth goalie Caitlin Walker corralled. Panther netminder Lin Han had the toughest save of the frame, kicking out a pad on a shot through traffic from the high slot by Carley Daly.
Both teams had quality chances in the middle stanza, with the visitor’s best chance coming with 14 minutes on the clock. Kaitlin Hoang had a breakaway from the blueline in. Hoang’s bid was knocked aside by Han to keep the game scoreless. Middlebury came close to getting on the scoreboard in the final seconds, as Madie Leidt created a turnover behind the Mammoth net. She centered the puck from below the goal line to Jenna Letterie on the doorstop, who was denied by Walker.
The offense picked up in the final period, with the Mammoths getting on the scoreboard with 17:53 on the clock. Rose Mroczka was stopped by Han on a breakaway, but Hoang trailed the play and buried the rebound as it sat in the blue paint for a 1-0 lead. The hosts pulled even at the 6:07 mark when Leidt redirected Claudia Vira’s shot from the point for her team-leading 19th tally of the season. Amherst quickly regained the lead when Emma Flynn carried the puck out from behind the net and snuck a shot inside the right post only 13 second later.
The Panthers pressed for the equalizer in the closing minutes, but were unable to solve Walker. The Mammoth goalie made a nice pad save on a tip in front by Letterie with 5:50 remaining and minutes later kicked out a deflection by Sidney Portner. Middlebury pulled Han for an extra attacker with 1:10 on the clock, with Amherst holding the Panthers at bay to secure the title.
Han finished with 11 saves, while Walker recorded 25 stops for visitors. Middlebury doubled the Mammoths on shots (26-13), including a 14-3 margin over the final 20 minutes, while neither team was whistled for a penalty.