The Middlebury men's hockey team has advanced to the NESCAC Championship game for the 10th straight year after a 4-1 win over Williams at Amherst. The Panthers will take on Amherst, a 3-0 winner over Trinity, on Saturday night at 7:30 in the NESCAC title game.
Middlebury had the first scoring chance of the game less than five minutes into the first period as Mason Graddock found some open real estate in the slot. The Panther veteran let a one-timed slap shot fly, that went just over the shoulder and crossbar of Williams goaltender Ryan Purdy.
Middlebury went on the power play when Williams was whistled for tripping with 11:36 to play in the first. The Panthers wasted no time getting their second-ranked power play unit going, as Jamie McKenna buried a shot from close range past Purdy just over halfway through the extra-man session. The helper on the power play goal went to Graddock.
At the end of the opening period, Middlebury held a narrow 9-8 edge in shots on goal, despite attempting 25 total shots to Williams' 16.
Just 3:17 into the second period, Williams found an equalizer off a scramble in front of Middlebury netminder Doug Raeder. The score came off the stick of Andrew Lepore, with assists going to senior Brett Haraguchi and Ryan Young.
With just over six minutes to play in the second period, Middlebury's John Sullivan broke free at the end of a penalty kill, only to see Eph defender Brian Malchoff chase him down. Sullivan slammed on the brakes, while Malchoff stayed on his hip to force a harmless back-handed shot.
The horn blew to end the second period with the game tied up 1-1, as Williams looked strong in the frame. After two periods, the Panthers still held a slight 22-18 edge in shots on goal.
After just five minutes of third period action, the Panthers regained the lead 2-1 on a rebound score from Leonard Badeau. Assists on the eventual game-winning goal went to Sullivan and Tucker Donahoe.
Midway through the period, Middlebury nearly doubled its lead when Graddock beat Purdy but not the pipe with a blast from the slot. The long-range shot went off the Eph goaltender's glove before nicking the right side of the frame and going wide. With 6:59 to play, the Panthers were able to open up a 3-1 lead as Donahoe banged home a rebound score.
With 1:50 to play in the third, Williams was sent on the power play, and after calling a timeout, pulled Purdy for an extra skater. The Ephs put a handful of shots on Raeder, before Middlebury's Badeau rifled home a short-handed empty-net goal from beyond center ice. Purdy returned to the net to finish out the final seconds of the game, and close the night with 35 saves. Raeder made 29 stops in net for the Middlebury win.
With the trio of third period scores, Middlebury closed out their 19th victory of the year to improve to 19-6-1. With the loss, Williams finished the 2008-09 season with a 15-9-2 mark.