Fourth-seeded Middlebury was downed 4-2 by fifth-seeded Wesleyan in a NESCAC Quarterfinal game on Saturday afternoon in Kenyon Arena. With the loss, Middlebury wraps up the year with a 10-12-3 overall record, while the Cardinals advance to the semifinals, where they take on host and top-seed Williams on March 2.
Wesleyan's Tyler Kobryn had a great chance to open the scoring with 5:51 expired, but his shot hit the right pipe and ricocheted away. Neither team was able to muster up a quality opportunity until the final two minutes of the period. Middlebury's Conor Breen had a great chance at the 18:40 mark, but Cardinal netminder Tim Sestak barely got his stick on the puck to deny the opportunity. Wesleyan broke through with just 48 seconds remaining in the opening period on a power play. An initial shot by Spencer Fox was thwarted by Panther goaltender Brian Ketchabaw, but Cam Peritz was there to tuck the rebound under the crossbar for the 1-0 edge heading into the intermission.
Middlebury tallied the equalizer just 1:55 into the second stanza. EMack Bentley stole the puck in transition, before Zach Shapiro redirected a pass from Bentley on the doorstep to make it 1-1. After the goal, the Panthers looked to take the lead with back-to-back power play opportunities, but a strong Wesleyan defense killed off both. With 40 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Middlebury's Paddy Mangan sent a pass across to Brendan Dawson, before his slap shot from just inside the blue line gave the Panthers a 2-1 edge.
Wesleyan knotted the game 2-2 with 2:01 elapsed in the final session. Liam Donelan took a shot from just inside the blue line, before Jordan Rose tipped it in. Later, Quincy Gregg worked the puck around the back of the net and fed Hunter Vannier a pass on the doorstep. Vannier's one-timer gave the Cardinals the 3-2 advantage at the 7:21 mark. Middlebury looked to tie with 12:07 expired, but Owen Powers' shot from point-blank was denied by Sestak. Wesleyan solidified the victory with a power play tally at the 17:59 mark. An initial shot by Fox was thwarted by Ketchabaw, but Emmet Powell one-timed the rebound for the 4-2 final.
Middlebury's Ketchabaw stopped 17 shots during 58:46, while Sestak earned the win with 21 saves. The Panthers heled a 23-21 edge in shots, while Wesleyan was 2-for-3 on power plays.
This was the second-straight year the teams met in the quarterfinals, as the teams are now tied 2-2 in the NESCAC Championship series. The teams split the regular-season series, with the Cardinals (13-11-1) posting a 3-1 win in Vermont on January 11 and the Panthers earning a 4-1 win at Wesleyan on February 8.