Middlebury took command with a three-goal second-period en route to a 4-2 win over Trinity in the NESCAC Semifinals at Bowdoin's Sidney J. Watson Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers (18-4-4) advance to their 11th conference championship tilt tomorrow and will look for their eighth NESCAC crown when they face top-seeded Bowdoin College at 2:00 p.m. Trinity ends its season with a record of 15-9-2.
An early Trinity penalty resulted in the first tally of the game for the Panthers. After a period of sustained offensive pressure, the Panthers finally capitalized off a series of tipped passes that drew Bantam netminder Wesley Vesprini out of position. Bryan Curran found Ken Suchoski, who buried the puck into the net at 7:33 to make it 1-0.
The Panthers took control of the game with a second-period flurry. Middlebury doubled their lead when Jak Knelman found Martin Drolet streaking down the ice. Drolet finished with a short-handed backhander to the top right corner at 5:31. Middlebury made it 3-0 after a forced a turnover in the Trinity defensive zone. Mathieu Dubuc converted on a backhander through a screen past the shoulder of Vesprini at 8:34. After killing off a Trinity 5x3 power play, the Panthers gained a 5x3 of their own and made it a four-goal game when John Sullivan took control of the puck behind the net and wrapped it around the post at 17:23.
Trinity found their way onto the scoreboard at 6:10 of the third frame when Adam Houli picked up pass from Richard Hollstein and beat a Middlebury defender in a footrace. Yanchek came out to play the puck and Houli easily shot the puck into the empty net earning Trinity's first tally. Vesprini made a nifty save on a breakaway for Middlebury with 6:30 remaining and Trinity's Jeffery Menard responded with a great individual effort to beat Yanchek at 16:21 to close the gap to two goals.
The Bantams had a late chance with a two-man advantage thanks to a Middlebury penalty and empty net, but could not draw any closer. Vesprini stopped 36 shots for the Bantams while Yanchek made 26 saves for the Panthers.