Middlebury clinched the top seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament as the Panthers scored twice in a span of 2:07 in the third period, sparking them to a 5-3 road triumph Saturday at Williams. Seventh-ranked Middlebury (16-6-2, 11-4-1) will host eighth-seeded Wesleyan next Saturday in Kenyon Arena in a quarterfinal contest. Williams (10-12-2, 7-7-2) will learn its tournament opponent Sunday when the final regular-season game is completed.
The Panthers opened the scoring 4:25 into the game when Anna Zumwinkle wristed a shot from the right point that went through traffic and past Williams' goalie Marissa Anderson for her third goal in the last four games. Kearan Burke countered for the Ephs 47 seconds later, jamming in a rebound on a shot originally taken by Sara Lehman. The guests regained the lead with 5:47 left in the first period when Katherine Jackson redirected a shot from the right point by Victoria Laven.
The teams combined for three more goals in the middle stanza with Williams drawing even at the 10:17 mark. Chelsey Stevenson popped in her own rebound to tie the game for the hosts, but the Panthers jumped right back in front. It took just 1:26 before Jessica Young ripped a shot past Anderson from below the right faceoff dot while Middlebury was on a power play. Carly Watson and Zumwinkle each earned assists on the play after playing catch with the puck at the points. Williams erased its third one-goal deficit of the contest with 4:03 left in the period when Caitlyn Buckley lifted a rebound past Panther goalie Lin Han as the teams stayed deadlocked at 3-3 after two periods.
Middlebury struck for two goals in 2:07 early in the final period, claiming the game's first two-goal lead. Jackson weaved her way through the neutral zone and wristed a shot from the left circle into the top corner of the net 2:48 into the frame. Lizzie Sheline netted the team's next goal 2:07 later with a slap shot from the right side into the lower-left corner of the net while the Panthers were shorthanded. It was Sheline's third-straight game with a goal and her seventh of the year.
The Panther defense prevented the Ephs from getting back into the contest, holding them to one shot on goal for the final five minutes of the contest, keeping the final tally at 5-3.
Lin earned the win in goal for Middlebury with 21 saves, while Anderson made 14, as the hosts held a 24-19 edge in shots. The Panthers won the battle of special teams, going 1-3 on the power play and muting all four Williams' chances, while scoring shorthanded.