Middlebury held off a determined Williams squad 14-13 in a NESCAC Quarterfinal game at Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium. John Jackson had a huge impact in the one-goal victory, setting career-highs in both faceoffs won (27-30) and grabbing a staggering 20 groundballs. Ninth-ranked Middlebury, the third seed with an overall record of 12-4, will meet second-seeded Tufts next Saturday at top-seeded Amherst, while the host will battle fifth-seeded Bates. The Panthers' win avenges a road 14-11 road loss to the Ephs (9-6).
In a 1-1 game, Middlebury strung three goals together for a 4-1 lead late in the first quarter. Cal Williams started the run with a winding dodge through traffic, as the defenseman scored with a backhanded shot at 7:47. The visitors ended the first quarter with a pair of goals, capped by Steven Kiesel's second of his game-high seven goals with 13 seconds left on the clock.
The Panthers opened the second quarter with two more goals, as Sean Carroll made it a 6-3 game on a man-up tally off a feed by Joel Blockowitz at 9:32. Williams again closed the quarter with two goals, including Kiesel's third at 6:47, as Middlebury took a 6-5 lead into halftime.
After exchanging goals to begin the third quarter, the Panthers ran off a trio of scores for a 10-6 advantage at the 6:06 mark. After a goal by Jack Rautiola, Jack Cleary made a rarely seen lefty dodge for a tally before Carroll capped it with a man-up goal for Middlebury's first four-goal cushion of the contest.
Williams struck back with a three-goal counter, highlighted by two tallies from Kiesel. His first goal opened the burst as he collected a turnover in the Panthers defensive zone at 4:44, while his second goal bookended the run, as he dodged past two defenders for a doorstep tally with only 22 seconds to play in the quarter, making it a 10-9 deficit.
As Middlebury took a 10-9 lead into the fourth quarter, the Panthers' Kyle Soroka gave the hosts a two-goal lead at 14:06. The Ephs sliced it to one goal at 11:52 as Eric Kelley caught a pass from Michael Fahey from behind the cage for his lone goal of the contest.
On the ensuing faceoff, Jackson, as he did numerous times before, won it and grabbed the groundball for the Panthers. Instead of passing the ball, Jackson took it to the crease for a goal that sparked a three-goal run. Henry Riehl put a rebound past Ephs' goalie Dan Whittman at 10:30, while Eric Rogers made it a 14-10 lead on a give-and-go from Jon Broome with 7:01 left to play.
Facing their second four-goal deficit of the game, the Ephs scored the next three goals as Kiesel netted a pair including his seventh and final goal of the game at 1:56.
Jackson won the following faceoff for Middlebury, but the Panthers turned the ball over deep in their offensive zone with just over a minute to play. After Williams cleared the ball, the visitors called time-out with 39 seconds left. After spinning the ball around on the Ephs' set play, Kiesel popped out for a clear, midrange shot, but Panther goalie Will Ernst made a save on the game-tying attempt, as the Panthers ran out the clock, securing the 14-13 victory.
The Panthers outshot the Ephs 50-40, as Carroll netted four of his five attempts to lead his team. Tim Giarrusso had two goals, while Rautiola had a goal and two helpers. Besides Jackson's 20 groundballs, Cal Williams added seven groundballs and a goal, as Middlebury collected 55 rollers to Williams' 23. Ernst (12-4) made 14 saves in net.
Kiesel led all scorers with seven goals, one off the NESCAC tournament record set by Broome in 2013. Kiesel also paced the Ephs with four groundballs. Kelley and two others each had a goal and an assist. Whittman (9-6) made 15 saves in net for Williams.