Middlebury's Maddie Winslow scored 6:37 into overtime lifting the Panthers to their eighth NESCAC Championship with a 5-4 victory over Amherst on Sunday in Kenyon Arena. With the win, sixth-ranked Middlebury (20-4-3) earns the conference's automatic bid into the 2016 NCAA Division III Tournament, while fourth-ranked Amherst (22-2-3) hopes to receive an at-large bid. The tournament field will be announced on Monday.
Sunday's game marked the sixth time since the NESCAC Tournament began in 2002 that the title game has gone to overtime, with the Panthers being involved on five occasions. The contest was also the fifth time these programs have squared off in the finals, with Middlebury claiming the last four meetings.
Jessica Young started the deciding play in overtime for the hosts, collecting her own rebound off a blocked shot and sliding a centering pass to Winslow on the right circle. Winslow quickly one-timed a shot into the upper corner of the net to clinch the championship. The goal was her team-leading 17th of the winter.
The Panthers jumped out to the early lead when Katie Mandigo scored 38 seconds into the game. Mandigo took a long outlet pass from Julia Wardwell and wristed a shot through the legs of Amherst goalie Sabrina Dobbins (21 saves). The hosts doubled that margin at the 3:01 mark on a shot from the slot by Young. She scored after taking a short pass from Winslow as several players crashed the net. The goal was dislodged from its moorings on the play, but it was determined the puck had already crossed the goal line.
Right after Middlebury netted the second goal, Amherst earned a power play, but the Panthers erased the minor penalty with a successful kill.
The Purple & White later had two quality chances on back-to-back shots with less than eight minutes left in the opening period. Caroline Bomstein intercepted a clearing attempt on the right side and fired a high shot that Panther goalie Julia Neuburger (31 saves) stopped. Seconds later, Alex Toupal laced a low shot that Neuburger used her right pad to direct into the corner.
Mandigo increased Middlebury's lead just after that with her second marker of the game at the 13:45 mark. She one-timed a touch pass from Shanna Hickman in the slot for a 3-0 edge.
Amherst gained some momentum late in the opening period with a shorthanded goal from Sara Culhane. Culhane won a battle for the puck on a dump in and scored on a wrap around, using her backhand with 3:02 left in the period.
In the second period, Amherst continued its surge, scoring three-straight goals to take a 4-3 lead. Bomstein made it a 3-2 game 6:36 into the period, taking a pass at the right point from Jamie McNamara, wristing a shot that went through traffic and over Neuburger's shoulder. The Purple & White tallied again 1:58 later when Katie Savage collected her own rebound and fed a pass out to Katelyn Pantera, who scored from the top of the right circle to tie the game at 3-3.
Culhane put Amherst in front with her second of the contest on a shot that deflected in off Neuburger. That goal came at with 7:01 left in the middle stanza and was Culhane's fifth of the season.
In the third period, each team came up empty on a power play in the last 10 minutes, but Amherst came within inches of winning the game in the final 25 seconds. Toupal took a shot from the right circle that Neuburger stopped, but a charging Eileen Harris put the rebound toward the goal that stopped flush against the left post while on edge, setting up the overtime period.
Middlebury had a power play early in overtime that the visitors killed off, while Neuburger stopped a 2-on-1 rush setting up Winslow's heroics minutes later.
Amherst held a 35-26 advantage on shots, while the Panthers were 0-4 on the power play and Purple & White went 0-2.