February 23, 2009

The Panther men's hockey team ended its regular season with a loss at Amherst and a win at Hamilton, securing the second seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament. The Panthers will host Hamilton on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in a NESCAC Quarterfinal match-up.

Amherst jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held off a furious comeback by Middlebury as the Jeffs picked up a 4-3 win at home. With the victory, Amherst clinched the top seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament and the right to host the semifinals and finals with a quarterfinal win next weekend. Middlebury held a commanding 57-23 shots advantage in the game.

Brendan Powers opened the scoring when he put home a rebound 3:36 into the frame. Less than five minutes later a face-off in the Middlebury zone was won by Amherst, with Jeff Landers gaining control of the puck. Landers put a shot on net and was denied, but Trip Wray was right there to put home the rebound and give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Midway through the period, Ted Vickers got the puck on the left wing and stormed in on a breakaway. Vickers elected to go high and to the near post, but first-year goaltender John Yanchek (Hillsborough, N.J.) knocked the puck away to keep it a two-goal game. Lennox later scored with a perfect shot high and on Yanchek's glove side to give the Jeffs a 3-0 advantage with 3:12 still to play in the first.

The lead grew to 4-0 when Landers' pass went from blue line to blue line and the puck was misplayed by a Panther defenseman, allowing Arnold to skate in untouched and flip his shot past senior Doug Raeder (Needham, Mass.), who had replaced Yanchek in net.

It looked as though Middlebury was going to get on the scoreboard with time running out in the first period, but Amherst goaltender Cole Anderson made a sprawling save and smothered the puck with only three seconds showing on the clock. Middlebury held a 20-11 edge in shots after 20 minutes, but trailed 4-0.

Middlebury got on the board 12:34 into the second period. Immediately after the Panthers won a face-off in the Lord Jeffs' zone, senior Leonard Badeau (Marshfield, Vt.) and first-year player Charlie Strauss (Eagle River, Wis.) assisted first-year player Charles Nerbak (Martinsville, N.J.) on his third goal of the year, as the rookie forward managed to cut his team's deficit to three.

It became a two-goal game less than five minutes later when the Panthers took advantage of a delayed Amherst penalty by scoring an extra-attacker goal. Junior John Sullivan (Delmar, N.Y.) and Badeau each picked up an assist, with rookie Martin Drolet (Lachine, Que.) drilling home the visitors' second goal of the night with 2:50 to play in the second frame. The period ended with Middlebury dominating in the shots column with a 19-4 advantage.

In the third, the Panthers pulled their goalie while on the power play to create a 6-on-4 advantage, which moved to a 6-on-3 edge when the Jeffs were yet again called for a penalty. With 57 seconds of the three-man advantage to work with, Sullivan fed senior Mason Graddock (Stowe, Vt.) from behind the goal, and his one-timer found the back of the net to make it a 4-3 game with only 1:27 to play.

Raeder briefly returned to his net but was once again removed after the ensuing face-off to give Middlebury just over a minute of a 6-on-4. A final timeout was called with 47 ticks on the clock, and the Panthers failed to complete the comeback despite a valiant effort in the game's waning moments.

Yanchek made six stops in the first period and Raeder stopped 13 shots while not allowing a single goal in the second and third. Anderson made 54 saves on the night.

Sophomore Bryan Curran (Wilmette, Ill.) scored two goals and assisted on another to lead Middlebury to a 5-2 win against Hamilton in the regular season finale for both teams. The win set up a rematch between the schools in this weekend's NESCAC Tournament.

Senior Jamie McKenna (Lake Placid, N.Y.) earned three assists for the Panthers and now leads the team with 22 assists and 35 points. Raeder made 29 saves to pick up the win.

Chris Lorenc paced the Continentals with one goal and one assist. Lorenc leads the team with 17 goals and 30 points. Ian Stearns made 40 saves.

Middlebury pounced on Hamilton right away with four goals in the first period. Drolet gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead with his team-high 17th goal just 1:13 into the period. Curran made it 2-0 at 8:52 and Nerback extended the lead to 3-0 with his fourth goal at 10:40. Senior Mack Cummins (SW Ranches, Fla.) notched his second goal this season with 6:26 left in the first for the commanding 4-0 lead.

Curran gave Middlebury an insurmountable 5-0 advantage with his fourth goal this season at 4:09 of the second period. The Continentals rallied in the third period with goals by BJ Lalonde and Lorenc, but it wasn't nearly enough.

The Panthers held a 45-31 advantage in shots and now lead the all-time series, 79-30-2. Hamilton was 1-for-5 on the power play and killed all four Middlebury opportunities.
. Men's hockey record: 17-6-1
. Up next: 2/28 vs. Hamilton - 4:00 (NESCAC Quarterfinals)