The Middlebury men’s hockey team suffered a 4-1 loss at 12th-ranked Amherst on Friday night. The Panthers outshot their opponents 24-20, but gave up three third period goals in the loss. Middlebury returns to action on Saturday at Hamilton.
Capturing their sixth victory over the Panthers in seven meetings, the Jeffs improved to 6-1-0 (5-0-0 NESCAC) on the year, while Middlebury fell to 3-2-2 (3-1-1 NESCAC).
Jumping out to an early lead, Amherst netted the game’s first goal just 4:19 after the opening face-off. Skating up ice on an odd-man rush, Conor Brown put a hard shot on target that forced a pad save from Middlebury goaltender Nick BonDurant. With the senior unable to control the rebound, Topher Flanagan hammered home his first of the season into the right side of the net.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first, Amherst went on the power play. Breaking out of their defensive zone the Panthers caught the Jeffs out of position, setting up a short-handed breakaway chance for Mike Najjar. Charging toward the left circle, Amherst goalie Dave Cunningham dove forward and poked the puck away before the first-year could stick it toward goal.
Outshooting the home team 7-4 over the first 20 minutes, Middlebury opened the second period on a man-advantage. Receiving a pass at the left point, Connor Frick ripped a hard shot past Cunningham, but the try rattled off the right post, keeping the visitors off the board. With Middlebury on another power play midway through the frame, Brown raced forward shorthanded. Beating a Panther defender to the puck in the left corner, the forward skated in front of the crease before lifting a backhander into BonDurant’s chest.
Keeping the puck in Amherst’s zone early in the third, the Panthers peppered the Jeff net with shots, forcing Cunningham to make six saves over the first five minutes of action. With a Middlebury player going down at the right point, the Purple & White broke out on a 2-on-1. Carrying up the left side, Brendan Burke put a rising shot on net. Flashing his glove, BonDurant got a piece of the attempt, but could not hold on as the puck bounced over the goal line to suddenly put Amherst up 2-0.
Still down by a pair of scores with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation, George Ordway put a low tracer on target from the left circle, but Cunningham kicked away the shot to momentarily preserve the shutout. With four minutes on the clock, Amherst stretched the lead as Burke tucked a rebound off a Brian Safstrom wrister inside the right post.
On the power play in the waning moments of the period, Middlebury's Louis Belisle collected a loose puck to the right of goal following a Robbie Donahoe shot. Quickly looking to net, the blue liner beat Cunningham to the short side to break-up the sophomore’s shutout bid. The Jeffs closed out the scoring on Brown’s empty net tally at 18:34.
The Panthers finished with a 24-20 shot advantage, but converted just one of their nine power play opportunities. Cunningham collected 23 saves to improve to 5-1-0, while BonDurant had 16 stops.