Panthers Blank Hamilton To Clinch Home Game In NESCAC Tournament

Middlebury's seniors were recognized prior to Saturday's game. (Will Costello)
Middlebury's seniors were recognized prior to Saturday's game. (Will Costello)

Middlebury erupted for a season-high six goals, as the Panthers posted a 6-0 shutout victory over Hamilton on Saturday on the final day of the regular season. Middlebury (10-11-3, 8-7-3) clinched the fourth seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament and will host Wesleyan in a quarterfinal on February 29, while the Continentals (11-9-4, 10-6-2) are seeded third and will entertain Bowdoin on the same day.

The hosts came out strong, scoring three times in the opening eight minutes of the contest. Mitchell Allen tucked in a power-play goal off a rebound on a shot by Antoine Belisle at the 4:37 mark. Just 1:46 later, Connor Breen one-timed a shot from the right circle past Hamilton goalie Anthony Tirabassi for a 2-0 cushion. Owen Powers increased the margin to three, potting a shorthanded marker with 12:01 on the clock with Breen making a sweeping pass from the ice to set up the tally. The Continentals came close to getting on the scoreboard with 8:38 on the clock when Nick Ursitti's shot got behind Middlebury netminder Brian Ketchabaw, but the puck was cleared off the goal line by a Panther player.

The hosts got off to a quick start in the middle stanza as well, scoring just 33 seconds into the frame. Paddy Bogart collected the puck at the right post after a shot by Powers from the between the circles was blocked, depositing his third goal of the season into the net. The visitors threatened on a power play in the later stages of the period. Sterling Bray's shot from the bottom of the right circle was stopped by Ketchabaw and went straight up in the air, but Middlebury's Billy Dobensky batted the puck out of harm's way as the hosts led 4-0 after 40 minutes of play.

Ketchabaw made two big pad saves midway through the final period, denying Fred Allaire's shot from the left side and Joey Moore's bid in the slot after a turnover. The Panthers iced the contest with a pair of late tallies, starting with a power-play marker with 7:31 remaining. Alex Heinritz backhanded a rebound on a shot from the point by Brendan Dawson, while Danny Tighe closed out the scoring with less than five minutes left on a feed in the slot from Cole Joslin.

Middlebury's penalty killing unit had tremendous final 20 minutes, killing off three penalties, including a major for the final 4:11 of the contest.

Ketchabaw stopped all 29 shots he faced, giving him a pair of shutouts against Hamilton this season. Tirabassi finished with 14 saves, as the Continentals held a 29-20 advantage in shots.

Middlebury had a big afternoon on special teams, going 2-5 on the power play, while killing off all six Hamilton power plays with a shorthanded goal.