The Middlebury men's hockey team fought back from a two-goal deficit, but Norwich scored 3:40 into overtime for a 3-2 victory Friday in the opening round of the Primelink Great Northern ShootOut hosted by Plattsburgh State. The 13th-ranked Cadets (6-1-1) advance to Saturday's championship, while the Panthers (0-3) will take on either 11th-ranked Plattsburgh State or Concordia (Minn.) in the third-place game at 4:00 p.m.
Norwich accounted for the only goal in the first period when the Cadets took advantage of a five-on-three opportunity in the final seconds. Norwich won the face-off in the Panther zone before Keven Salvucci wristed a shot through traffic from the left circle at the 19:59 mark of the stanza.
In the middle period, the Cadets doubled their advantage when Trent Dillinger reeled in a free puck on the right side of the crease and lifted a shot over Panther goalie Stephen Klein.
Middlebury had a golden chance to cut the difference in half while shorthanded. Mark McLellan raced in on a breakaway and fired a shot that was stopped by Norwich netminder Braeden Ostepchuk. He stabbed at the rebound on a second chance, but the puck was covered by Ostepchuk. Two minutes later, Middlebury got on the scoreboard when Kamil Tkaczuk laced a shot over Ostepchuk's shoulder at the 9:16 mark with assists from Mitchell Allen and Brendan Dawson.
The teams each had power plays in the final minutes of regulation, but Middlebury had the best chance while shorthanded in the final minute when Ostepchuk stopped McLellan's backhanded chance on a breakaway.
Payton Baldillez netted the game winner in the latter stages of overtime after getting possession of the puck in the left corner. He came up the half boards and circled to the high slot where he fired a shot into the back of the net that lifted the Cadets into the title game.
Klein finished with 33 saves for the Panthers, while Ostepchuk made 31 as Norwich had a 36-33 edge in shots. Each team scored on the power play with Middlebury getting four opportunities and the Cadets five.