The Middlebury men's hockey team fell 5-2 at Amherst in the NESCAC Championship game on Saturday night. The Jeffs receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the Panthers did not receive a bid for the second straight season. The NESCAC title is the first for the Amherst men, as they hosted the tourney in Orr Rink.
Amherst went on the power play after just four minutes of first period action as Ted Vickers put home a power play score off a feed from senior captain Jeff Landers. With 10:07 to play in the first period, Amherst doubled its lead as Brendan Powers found Joel Covelli before he returned the pass for a one-timer.
Middlebury was given a chance to cut into Amherst's lead with five minutes remaining in the first period with a power play. The Panthers nearly scored before the Jeffs took another penalty just 42 seconds into the first power play. Middlebury needed just over half-a-minute, before Jamie McKenna set up Mason Graddock for a slap shot that beat Cole Anderson glove side on the 5-on-3.
Neither team scored again in the frame, and at the end of one, the statistics reflected a deadlock as Amherst held just a 14-13 edge in shots on goal.
Amherst opened back up a two-goal advantage just 30 seconds into the second period when Landers and Eddie Effinger combined to spring Luke Arnold down the middle. The sophomore waited until he was on top of Doug Raeder before lifting a shot top-corner to put Amherst ahead 3-1. The Lord Jeffs went up 4-1 with 14:23 to play in the second period when Vickers scored on a rebound.
With 10:26 to play in the second period, Middlebury went back on the power play still down a trio of scores. Halfway through the extra-skater session, Raeder was called on to make a great glove save as an Amherst forward came down on a short-handed breakaway.
Throughout the final minutes of the second period, Anderson made save, after save, as Middlebury picked up their pressure for a response to Amherst's pair of early scores. That response never came for the Panthers, and at the end of two periods Middlebury held a 26-23 advantage in shots on goal, while Amherst still held a 4-1 lead on the scoreboard.
Early in the third period, Middlebury held Amherst scoreless on the power-play, before Anderson made a great save to deny a scoring chance from the Panthers. With 10:57 to play in the frame, Amherst's Rylan Burns was sent to the penalty box for slashing. Middlebury came up empty on the power play, leaving very little time to start a comeback effort.
Middlebury grabbed one goal back from Amherst on the power play with just over four minutes remaining. John Sullivan put home the goal with an assist from Michael Kretschmer, cutting Amherst's lead down to two goals.
With 2:33 remaining, Middlebury called Raeder to the bench for an extra skater. The Lord Jeffs held strong, and added an empty-net score from Arnold with just 1:35 showing on the clock to seal the 5-2 win.
Anderson and Raeder finished the night with 35 saves apiece, as Amherst improved to 21-4-1, and Middlebury dropped to 19-7-1.