Middlebury Upends No. 5 Wesleyan in NESCAC Quarterfinals

A.J. Kucinski had four goals and a pair of assists in Saturday's victory.
A.J. Kucinski had four goals and a pair of assists in Saturday's victory.

Middlebury goalie Tyler Bass made a career-high 17 saves, propelling the Panthers to an 11-7 upset of fifth-ranked Wesleyan in the NESCAC Quarterfinals Saturday in Connecticut. Middlebury (8-8), the tournament's seventh seed, advances to next weekend's semifinals at top-seeded Tufts, while Wesleyan (12-3) saw its five-game winning streak snapped. The Panthers will face the Jumbos at 12:00 p.m., while the other semifinal has fourth-seeded Amherst taking on third-seeded Williams at 3:00 p.m. The winners will play on Sunday in the NESCAC Championship at 12:00 p.m.

Middlebury took the early lead when Tyler Forbes ripped a shot from 10 yards away on an assist from A.J. Kucinski at the 13:48 mark. Luke Peterson made it 2-0 just 44 seconds later on a quick-stick score via a pass from behind the net by Kucinski for a man-up goal. The Cardinals got on the scoreboard when Scott Irwin scored at 4:36 on an unsettled chance, while Ronan Jacoby leveled the contest at 2-2 on a man-up tally with 3:00 remaining. The Panthers regained the lead in the final seconds of the initial quarter when Chase Goree grabbed a ground ball and lifted an odd-angled shot past goalie Otto Bohan for a 3-2 lead.

Wesleyan tied the contest at 3-3 when Colin Uyeki broke free from his defender on the goal line and scored from the right side with 11:34 left in the second stanza. The Panthers tallied the final four goals of the quarter, as Kucinski had two, while Will Brossman scored from 10 yards away and Forbes tallied eight seconds later on the left for a 7-3 halftime edge.

In a low-scoring third quarter, back-up goalie Colin Hanley corralled a loose ball just outside his crease and went coast-to-coast, scoring a man-down goal with a 10-yard shot from the right at 5:31 to pull the hosts to within 7-4. Forbes rifled an under-handed shot from 20 yards away for a four-goal edge, while Kucinski muscled a bouncing shot into the net with four seconds left for a 9-4 lead after three quarters.

Wesleyan's Tom Martello scored on the doorstep at the 11:19 mark of the final quarter, before Kucinski tallied in transition off a feed from Kyle McFetridge for a 10-5 advantage with 6:56 remaining. Goals from Zander Kosten and Martello 42 seconds apart pulled the hosts to within 10-7 at 4:42, but Goree concluded the scoring at 2:26 with Bohan out of the net trying to double team for the final 11-7 tally.

Kucinski led all players with four goals and two assists, while Forbes added three scores. Goree chipped in with two goals, while Jack Gould had two helpers. Goree also scooped up six ground balls, while Jake Madnick went 18-21 on faceoffs and posted a game-best 14 ground balls in the victory. Laurence Jackson caused three turnovers in the win. Bass improved to 4-2 with his 17 saves, including 12 in the final two quarters.

Martello paced Wesleyan with two goals, Carter Hawthorne dished out two assists. Bohan finished with 14 saves and a team-high five ground balls in 58:02 of action, while Christian Barker picked up four rollers.

The Panthers held a 48-38 advantage in shots and a 45-35 edge in ground balls. Middlebury avenges a 12-6 setback to the Cardinals on March 15 as part of the Mustang Classic.