#10 Middlebury Finishes Strong, Tops Conn. College in Overtime

Middlebury celebrates its 3-2 overtime win over Connecticut College. (Will Costello)
Middlebury celebrates its 3-2 overtime win over Connecticut College. (Will Costello)

Fueled by a furious finish at the end of regulation that saw Middlebury score twice in the final 37 seconds, the Panthers went on to a post a 3-2 overtime victory over Connecticut College on Saturday in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. Middlebury's Madie Leidt popped in the game winner at 2:23 of overtime, sending the second-seeded Panthers (15-7-3) to the conference semifinal round for the 17th time in 18 years. The seventh-seeded Camels finished their season at 10-11-3. The final two rounds of the NESCAC Tournament will be held next weekend at top-seeded Williams.

A fast-paced opening period produced scoring chances for both teams, but neither squad was able to produce a goal. Middlebury's Jenna Marotta had a quality opportunity just under four minutes into the game, cutting through the slot, before firing a rising shot from the right circle that Connecticut College goalie Bailey Mertz steered aside with her stick. The Camels tested the Panthers midway through the frame with a power play, forcing Middlebury netminder Lin Han to make back-to-back tough saves on deflections in front.

The visitors started the second stanza with 1:52 of carry over power-play time, needing only 27 seconds to break the tie. Paige Michel's shot from the high slot sailed through traffic and behind Lin for a 1-0 lead. Connecticut College doubled the advantage 1:33 later, as Elena Gualtieri sprung Erin Dillon on a breakaway, who notched her eighth tally of the season.

Middlebury pressed late in the period with two power plays, with the best chance coming when Eva Hendrikson's shot from the right faceoff dot was tipped by Jenna Letterie on the doorstep. Mertz held the post, keeping it a two-goal came lead with 20 minutes left to play.

The Camels held the Panthers at bay for the opening 19 minutes of the final period, before the hosts netted a pair of goals with Han pulled for an extra skater. Marotta cut the margin in half with 36.7 seconds remaining, wristing shot from between the top of the faceoff circles behind Mertz. Middlebury knotted the game with 16 seconds left in regulation, as Katherine Jackson jammed home a rebound from the right post after Sidney Portner took a stab at a loose puck.

In overtime, Gaultieri took a shot in the opening seconds from the bottom of the left circle that Han shouldered away. The deciding goal came when Jackson's bid from the right circle was deflected on goal by Letterie, as Leidt backhanded the rebound into the net at the 2:23 mark for her team-leading 10th goal of the year.

Han finished with 17 saves on 19 shots, while Mertz stopped 31-34. The Camels went 1-2 on the power play and the hosts were came up empty on five opportunities.