Middlebury Advances to NESCAC Semifinals

Elise Park (right) celebrates Middlebury's first goal in Saturday's 4-1 win over Trinity with Delanie Goniwicha and Ashley McDonald (7). (Will Costello)
Elise Park (right) celebrates Middlebury's first goal in Saturday's 4-1 win over Trinity with Delanie Goniwicha and Ashley McDonald (7). (Will Costello)

Top-seeded Middlebury reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth time in the last six seasons, as the Panthers picked up a 4-1 triumph over Trinity kin a NESCAC Quarterfinal on Saturday in Kenyon Arena. With the win, Middlebury (20-2-3) advances to the conference semifinals for the 18th time in last 19 years. The eighth-seeded Bantams finished their season at 8-13-4. The Panthers will take on Hamilton at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, March 7, while Colby meets Amherst in the other semifinal at 4:00 p.m. in Kenyon Arena. The championship game will take place on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

In the opening period, the teams played a tight defensive game with a limited number of shots on goal. Trinity had a good chance with seven minutes expired when Sierra Lee's shot in the slot was blocked by Middlebury's Claudia Vira, with Cassidy McNeeley collecting the rebound and firing a shot just wide of the left post. The Panthers opened the scoring with 8:11 on the clock on Elise Park's first-career goal on a shot from the point. The tally was set up good work along the left boards by Ellie Barney and Ashley McDonald. The hosts tacked on a 5-on-3 power-play goal in the final seconds, as Madie Leidt wired a shot into the upper corner of the net with 13.6 seconds left before the intermission.

The Bantams cut the margin to a goal with 7:59 remaining in the middle stanza, netting a power-play goal. Ethel Wilhlemsson's shot from the slot was stopped by Panther goalie Lin Han, but Martha Peppes tucked the rebound into the net to make it a 2-1 contest. The hosts regained their two-goal cushion less than four minutes later when Jenna Letterie's bid was denied by Trinity netminder Kai-Lilly Karpman. Katie Hargrave dove into the crease after the rebound, jamming the puck over the goal line for a 3-1 lead.

Middlebury pressed to add to its lead in the third frame, as Leidt raced in on goal with a rising shot that was turned aside. She collected the rebound behind the net, sliding a pass to Hargrave on the doorstep with her quick shot being smothered by Karpman. The Bantams had a power play with just over 12 minutes remaining, as Ellie Fellows had the best chance on the advantage with a shot from the right circle that Han corralled. Trinity pulled Karpman for the final 1:01, but Leidt scored into an empty net with 5.3 seconds left for her team-leading 18th marker of the season for the 4-1 final.

Han stopped 20-21 shots in goal for the Panthers, while Karpman had 23 saves. Middlebury held a 27-21 edge in shots as each team converted once on the power play with the Bantams getting four opportunities and the Panthers two.