Third-ranked Wisconsin-Eau Claire (8-0-1) held off a furious Middlebury comeback bid during a 4-3 win in the championship game of the PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout. The contest was played in Plattsburgh State's Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena. The Panthers (4-2-0), who had a four-game winning streak snapped, return to NESCAC action on Friday when they travel to Amherst for a 7:00 p.m. faceoff.
Middlebury took a 1-0 lead 3:19 into the game with a goal from Matt Danner. Tyler Capello won a faceoff on the left side between his legs to Danner, who wristed a shot over the shoulder of Blugold goalie Zach Dyment for Danner's second score of the season. UW-Eau Claire tied the game at 1-1 with 12:22 elapsed when Nick Techel had his initial shot blocked from the left side, but he skated onto the rebound and scored past Panther goalie Adam Wisco for his first goal of the season. The Blugolds took the lead 2:18 later when Jarrad Vroman's rising wrist shot from the left dot caught Wisco's left shoulder, before trickling over the goal line for his second tally.
In the second period, the Blugolds took a 3-1 lead just 41 seconds in when Derek Hammer scored his second goal of the season on a rebound. UW-Eau Claire made it a three-goal game at the 10:54 mark when Jon Richards sent a wraparound pass to Cole Paskus on the left doorstep for his second goal of the season. The Panthers had a good scoring chance on the powerplay with just under three minutes left, but Zach Shapiro's wrister from the left dot was saved by Dyment.
In the third period, the Panthers pressed to get back into the contest. With under six minutes gone, Shapiro had his attempt just outside the crease saved by Dyment. Middlebury moved to within 4-2 when Emack Bentley tapped in a rebound at the 13:42 mark on a shot from the right point by Bret Pastor. The Panthers pulled goalie Brian Ketchabaw with 3:40 remaining in favor of an extra skater, as Shapiro scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season 30 seconds later on a rebound off the pads of Dyment. Ketchabaw again came off the ice with 57.9 seconds left, but Middlebury was unable to muster another quality scoring chance for the final 4-3 score.
UW-Eau Claire held a 39-28 shots advantage in the game, including an 18-7 edge in the second period. Both teams went 0-3 on the powerplay. Wisco finished with 24 saves in 30:54 of action, while Ketchabaw stopped all 11 shots he faced in the final 29:06. Dyment made 24 for the Blugolds to earn the tournament's most valuable player honors.
Danner was named to the all-tournament team for the Panthers. Middlebury was making its 12th appearance in the title game.