Middlebury will challenge for the NESCAC Championship for the seventh straight year after a 4-3 win over Colby in a NESCAC semifinal match-up at Bowdoin. The Panthers will take on the host school, a 6-3 winner over Amherst, in the title game at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Scott Bartlett scored two goals, including the game-winner late in the third period, to lift Middlebury to the win. Colby finishes their year with a record of 14-9-2.
Colby took an early lead in Saturday's game, as Arthur Fritch took a feed at the blueline and skated in, taking a backhanded shot that deflected off a Middlebury defender's stick and past goalie Doug Raeder just 6:43 into the game. Middlebury answered quickly, when Tom Maldonado beat a Colby defender against the boards and snapped a wrister that richoted off the crossbar and into the twine to tie the game at 15:21.
The Panthers were able to take the lead late in the frame, as Darwin Hunt took a feed from the right face-off circle and slapped a shot that slipped through the pads of Ben Grandjean just 1:37 before intermission.
Colby evened things early in the second period, as Joe Rothwell rifled a shot to the top-corner, beating Raeder on his blocker-side to tie the game at 4:20. Middlebury replied just 20 seconds later, as a scrum in front of the Colby goal saw the puck come loose in front, where Bartlett poked home the rebound for a 3-2 Middlebury lead. But Colby managed to tie the game for the third time just 1:13 later, as Fritch buried a shot from the high slot to make it 3-3 heading into the third period.
Middlebury made several bids to take the lead early in the final frame, but Grandjean made several strong saves to keep the contest tied. The Panthers finally broke through with just 5:50 remaining, as Bartlett ripped a slapshot from the right-point, beating Grandjean stick-side to give Middlebury a 4-3 edge. Colby earned two powerplays late, but couldn't beat Raeder, who finished with 26 saves. Grandjean stopped 32 shots for Colby.
This will mark the third consecutive season that Middlebury and Bowdoin will play for the championship.