Middlebury won their fourth consecutive NESCAC Championship, defeating Bowdoin 4-2 on Sunday afternoon. The Panthers (17-7-3) beat the Polar Bears (16-7-3) for the third straight year in the conference title game, and dealt Bowdoin their first loss at Dayton Arena this year (11-1-0). The Panthers earn the NESCAC's automatic bid and their 13th straight trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Bowdoin earned the first powerplay of the game, but it was Middlebury who took advantage, as the Panthers' Brett Shirreffs intercepted a pass at center ice and skated in on Polar Bear netminder Chris Rossi, snapping a wrist-shot that slipped through the pads just 4:09 into the game. Moments later, Jamie McKenna had a breakaway chance for the Panthers, but Rossi was able to keep the deficit at one goal thanks to a nice kick save. The Polar Bears' best early chance came courtesy of Bryan Ciborowski, who snapped a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that sailed just high off the crossbar. With under five minutes left in the frame, Bowdoin's Mitch Dillon ripped a shot from the left slot that rang off the post, keeping it a 1-0 Middlebury lead after the opening period.
The two netminders traded good saves to open the second stanza, as Ross Cherry made a sliding stop off the stick of Bowdoin's Sebastien Belanger, while Rossi smothered a McKenna shot from between the circles. Bowdoin increased the offensive pressure, but still couldn't find the back of the net, as Colin MacCormack snapped a shot from the right circle that hit the far post and sailed wide. The Polar Bears earned another powerplay midway through the second frame, but the Panthers were again the team to score, as Justin Gaines collected a turnover in the neutral zone, came loose on a breakaway, and beat Rossi stick-side to make it 2-0. Another turnover by Bowdoin set the stage for Middlebury's third goal, as Evgeny Saidachev found Mickey Gilchrist between the circles. Gilchrist banged home the one-timer feed to give the visitors a three-goal advantage.
Shortly after the Panthers scored their third goal, Bowdoin earned a 5x3 powerplay chance. The Polar Bears were finally able to take advantage, as Tim McVaugh took a shot from the left faceoff circle that got past Cherry at 13:16, cutting the deficit to two goals.
After Bowdoin pulled netminder Rossi with 2:28 remaining, Colin Hughes finished off a scrum in front to close the gap to one goal. The Polar Bears pulled Rossi again, but were unable to find the equalizer in the closing moments as McKenna added an empty-netter with just 25 seconds remaining.
Rossi finished with 22 saves for Bowdoin, while Cherry stopped 32 shots for the Panthers. The Middlebury win avenges an earlier loss to the Polar Bears at Dayton Arena this season, and gives the Panthers their seventh title in the last eight years.