Top-seeded Middlebury held Bowdoin without a shot in the third period as the Panthers (18-6-2) advanced to the NESCAC Championship game after a 4-1 win over the sixth-seeded Polar Bears (13-10-4) in Kenyon Arena. Middlebury will take on the fifth-seeded Amherst College game at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday in the title game, the 12th overall for the eight-time champion Panthers. The winner of Sunday's title contest will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship.
The sixth-ranked Panthers had a strong start to the game with four good scoring chances in the initial three minutes. The best of those came on the rush when Katherine Jackson fired a shot from the bottom of the left circle that Bowdoin goalie Kerri St. Denis snared with her catching glove. After being held without a shot on their first power play, the Polar Bears had two quick shots at even strength from Julie Dachille, but both were denied by Panther netminder Julia Neuburger. The hosts had another scoring opportunity in the final minute of the frame, but St. Denis stuck out her left pad to thwart a low shot by Middlebury's Maddie Winslow.
The hosts opened the scoring 2:02 into the middle stanza on a give-and-go out of the right corner with Jessica Young setting up Allie Aiello in the bottom of the right circle for her first of the season. Aiello laced a shot over St. Denis' shoulder for a 1-0 lead. The Panthers made it 2-0, taking advantage of a five-on-three power play. Carly Watson sent the puck into the slot where Janka Hlinka touched a pass to the bottom of the left circle. Winslow went upstairs for her 12th goal of the season two seconds past the midway point of the period.
The Polar Bears broke through for a tally in the last minute of the period on a scramble in front of the Panther net. Brooke Solomon directed the puck to Dachille, who slipped her team-leading 11th goal of the season through Neuburger with 51.3 seconds left before the second intermission.
The third period was all Middlebury as the Panthers outshot their opponents, 15-0. Middlebury had several good looks at the Bowdoin goal, but St. Denis kept her team in the game until the final minutes. The Panthers went on the power play at the 8:52 mark, with St. Denis making five saves over the two-minute span, keeping it a 2-1 game.
Middlebury gained some breathing room with 2:09 remaining when Jenna Marotta netted her first of the season. After taking a pass from down low by Winslow, Marotta snapped a shot toward goal from the top of the right circle, past a screened St. Denis. Young sealed the victory with 19.1 seconds remaining, finding an open net from just inside the blue line after a dish from Hlinka. The goal was her team-leading 15th of the season.
Middlebury held a 35-10 shots advantage in the game, going 1-5 on the power play, while Bowdoin was 0-4. The Panther defense has now killed off its opponent's last 30 power-play opportunities. Neuburger tallied nine saves to pick up the victory, while St. Denis made 31 stops for the visitors.