Middlebury's Owen Powers scored with 2:45 left in the third period, lifting the Panthers past Johnson & Wales 3-2 in the opening round of the Middlebury Holiday Classic on Saturday. Middlebury (5-3-1) faces #15 Hobart in the championship at 4:00 p.m., while the Wildcats (3-8-2) skate in the consolation game at 1:00 p.m. Hobart advanced with a 4-2 win over #11 University of New England.
The hosts had the early edge in shots and nearly broke through for the game's initial goal in the midway stages of the opening period. Cole Joslin swept a shot on goal from the slot on an odd-man rush, but Wildcat goalie Mike Rockwell slid across the crease for the save. The hosts jumped in front 1-0 with 5:02 on the clock, as Michael Fahie buried a long rebound off the end boards.
Johnson & Wales came close to knotting the score with 3:41 remaining on a break by Conor Cassidy, but Panther goalie Adam Wisco came up with best save of the frame.
In the middle stanza, the Wildcats tied the game with 1:23 expired when Bryan Colburn slid in a rebound from the left side of the crease. Middlebury jumped back into the lead on a play that started in its own defensive zone. Conor Breen blocked a shot and flipped a pass through the neutral zone that Matt Danner skated onto. Once in the slot, he ripped a shot inside the left post on a breakaway at the 13:04 mark.
The score stayed at 2-1 through the remainder of the period, but Johnson & Wales came close to tying the game when Craig Hessenius's shot from the circle grazed the post.
The Wildcats struck for a shorthanded goal with 18:09 on the clock, as Stephen Rocchio picked the puck up in his own zone and raced up the ice, firing a shot through Wisco to tie the contest. Wisco made a huge stop on Jake Glod midway through the period after the Panthers turned over the puck just inside their own blue line.
Middlebury scored the game winner with 2:45 left in the game, as Powers put home a rebound on a shot from the left point by Brendan Dawson.
The Wildcats pulled Rockwell for the final 1:46, but they were unable to get any chances to force overtime.
Wisco recorded 28 saves for the Panthers, while Rockwell registered 36 for Johnson & Wales. Middlebury held a 39-30 edge in shots and had the game's only power playing coming up empty on that opportunity.