Top-seeded Middlebury came from behind, scoring a pair of unanswered goals to edge fourth-seeded Hamilton 2-1 on Saturday afternoon in Kenyon Arena. With the victory, the Panthers advance to the NESCAC Championship game for the 16th time and will face #3 Amherst at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Middlebury had a great chance to get on the board with 5:39 expired. Caroline Cutter redirected a pass from Claudia Vira on the doorstep, but Hamilton netminder Sidney Molnar was there to twart the chance. Later, Panther Jenna Letterie intercepted a pass in transition before wristing a shot from point blank at the 14:40 mark, but Molnar denied the chance to keep the contest scoreless. The Continentals took advantage of a power play, scoring 16:52 into the opening period for the 1-0 edge. Missy Segall and Kelli Mackey passed back-and-forth just inside the blue line, before Mackey found the back of the net through traffic.
Middlebury looked for the equalizer early in the middle frame during a power play beginning at the 1:28 mark. During the span, the Panthers fired seven shots, but a strong Hamilton defense stood up to hang onto its one-goal lead. The Continentals had a great opportunity to extend the advantage at the 10:38 mark during a give-and-go between Maddie Hong and Kate Piacenza, but Hong's attempt from the doorstep was denied by Middlebury goaltender Anna Goldstein. The Panthers' best chance to knot the contest came at the 17:22 mark when Eva Hendrikson sent a pass from the defensive zone up to Madie Leidt. Leidt broke in all alone, but her shot was stifled by Molnar. Middlebury found the equalizer with just six seconds left in the second period. Letterie collected a loose puck in the corner, before sending it to Anna Zumwinkle in the slot. Zumwinkle turned and fired the puck straight into the goal to make it 1-1 heading into intermission.
With 3:25 expired in the final stanza, Letterie had a great chance to give the Panthers the lead, but Molnar made a sprawling save to deny the opportunity. Hamilton had a flurry of chances to tally a goal beginning at the 5:13 mark of a power play, but the Panthers denied all five attempts. Middlebury's Sidney Portner tallied the game-winning shorthanded goal at the 9:39 mark of the third. Portner and Letterie skated two-on-one against Hamilton's goaltender. An initial bid by Letterie was denied by Molnar, but Portner lifted the rebound over Molnar's shoulder for the 2-1 edge. The Continentals had a great chance to tie the game at the 12:51 mark when Michaela Giutarri went one-on-one with Middlebury's netminder, but Goldstein made a great glove-save to thwart the chance. Hamilton pulled its goaltender with 1:21 remaining in regulation, but were unable to find the equalizer, as the Panthers hung on for the 2-1 victory.
Goldstein made 29 saves to earn the win in goal for the Panthers as she remains unbeaten this season (9-0-1). Molnar made 35 stops over 58:39 for the Continentals. Middlebury held a 37-30 advantage in shots during the win.