Top-seeded Middlebury advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals for the 15th time in the 16 years of the tournament's existence, after defeating Wesleyan 4-1 in Kenyon Arena. The sixth-ranked Panthers (17-6-2) will host the championship weekend for the 10th time on March 4-5. The eighth-seeded Cardinals end their season with a 7-12-5 mark. Middlebury will host sixth-seeded Bowdoin next Saturday at 1:00 p.m., while #2 Conn. College battles #5 Amherst at 4:00 p.m. The winners meet for the NESCAC Championship on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Middlebury jumped out to a 1-0 lead 3:55 into the game when Jessica Young scored her team-leading 14th goal of the season. Young picked up the puck in front of her own net before skating end to end, wristing a shot into the back of the net past Wesleyan goaltender Allegra Grant. The lead doubled with 1:42 left in the period when Katherine Jackson netted her fourth of the year. Carly Watson made a nice pass from behind her own net to Jackson, who streaked up the ice before scoring through the five-hole after a nice deke move. Middlebury held a 13-3 advantage in shots after one period and led 2-0.
Wesleyan got on the board at the 8:01 mark of the second period, making it a 2-1 game. Cici Frattasio made a nice pass from the corner to Ellery Sarosi in the high slot for a one-timer past Panther netminder Julia Neuburger. The goal was the fifth of the season for Sarosi.
The Panthers answered 3:20 later with a goal after a flurry in front. The puck came out to the point where Watson ripped a shot into the back of the net past Grant, who was still down from the previous scramble. The goal was Watson's fifth of the year.
Wesleyan nearly made it a one-goal game once again minutes later, but Neuburger flashed the pads on Jess Brennan and Hailey Sholty for a pair of saves.
Middlebury extended its lead with 1:19 remaining on a power-play goal from Elizabeth Wulf, her sixth tally of the season. Maddie Winslow worked the puck to Victoria Laven, who found Wolf on the left side. Wulf skated in before snapping a shot into the top corner of the net, near side over the shoulder of Grant. The Panthers nearly made it a 5-1 game seconds later, but a shot from Janka Hlinka hit the crossbar.
Middlebury had a couple chances early in the third period to add to its lead, but Hlinka's bid and second attempt were thwarted by Grant. Young later made a nice move to get open, but Grant just got a piece of her shot to keep it a 4-1 game.
Wesleyan also had some quality scoring opportunities, but Neuburger denied a short-side shot on the power play by Abby Rutt at the 4:30 mark. The Cardinals' best chance to score came at the 14:30 mark when Jackie Kilar's shot deflected off the crossbar.
Middlebury finished with a 40-14 shots advantage as Neuburger made 13 stops to earn the win. Grant made 36 saves between the pipes for the Cardinals. Wulf finished with a goal and an assist, while winning 11-13 faceoffs.