March 9, 2009

The Panther men's hockey team fell 5-2 at Amherst in the NESCAC Championship game on Saturday night. The Jeffs receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the Panthers did not receive a bid for the second straight season. The NESCAC title is the first for the Amherst men, as they hosted the tourney in Orr Rink.

Amherst went on the power play after just four minutes of first period action as Ted Vickers put home a power play score off a feed from senior captain Jeff Landers. With 10:07 to play in the first period, Amherst doubled its lead as Brendan Powers found Joel Covelli before he returned the pass for a one-timer.

Middlebury was given a chance to cut into Amherst's lead with five minutes remaining in the first period with a power play. The Panthers nearly scored before the Jeffs took another penalty just 42 seconds into the first power play. Middlebury needed just over half-a-minute, before senior Jamie McKenna (Lake Placid, N.Y.) set up senior Mason Graddock (Stowe, Vt.) for a slap shot that beat Cole Anderson glove side on the 5-on-3.

Neither team scored again in the frame, and at the end of one, the statistics reflected a deadlock as Amherst held just a 14-13 edge in shots on goal.

Amherst opened back up a two-goal advantage just 30 seconds into the second period when Landers and Eddie Effinger combined to spring Luke Arnold down the middle. The sophomore waited until he was on top of senior Doug Raeder (Needham, Mass.), before lifting a shot top-corner to put Amherst ahead 3-1. The Lord Jeffs went up 4-1 with 14:23 to play in the second period when Vickers scored on a rebound.

With 10:26 to play in the second period, Middlebury went back on the power play still down a trio of scores. Halfway through the extra-skater session, Raeder was called on to make a great glove save as an Amherst forward came down on a short-handed breakaway.

Throughout the final minutes of the second period, Anderson made save, after save, as Middlebury picked up their pressure for a response to Amherst's pair of early scores. That response never came for the Panthers, and at the end of two periods Middlebury held a 26-23 advantage in shots on goal, while Amherst still held a 4-1 lead on the scoreboard.

Early in the third period, Middlebury held Amherst scoreless on the power-play, before Anderson made a great save to deny a scoring chance from the Panthers. With 10:57 to play in the frame, Amherst's Rylan Burns was sent to the penalty box for slashing. Middlebury came up empty on the power play, leaving very little time to start a comeback effort.

Middlebury grabbed one goal back from Amherst on the power play with just over four minutes remaining. Junior John Sullivan (Delmar, N.Y.) put home the goal with an assist from sophomore Ken Suchoski (Bear Creek Township, Pa.), cutting Amherst's lead down to two goals.

With 2:33 remaining, Middlebury called Raeder to the bench for an extra skater. The Lord Jeffs held strong, and added an empty-net score from Arnold with just 1:35 showing on the clock to seal the 5-2 win.

Anderson and Raeder finished the night with 35 saves apiece, as Amherst improved to 21-4-1, and Middlebury dropped to 19-7-1.

The Panthers advanced to the NESCAC Championship game after a 4-1 win over Williams at Amherst.

Middlebury had the first scoring chance of the game less than five minutes into the first period as Graddock found some open real estate in the slot. The Panther veteran let a one-timed slap shot fly, that went just over the shoulder and crossbar of Williams goaltender Ryan Purdy.

Middlebury went on the power play when Williams was whistled for tripping with 11:36 to play in the first. The Panthers wasted no time getting their second-ranked power play unit going, as McKenna buried a shot from close range past Purdy just over halfway through the extra-man session. The helper on the power play goal went to Graddock.

At the end of the opening period, Middlebury held a narrow 9-8 edge in shots on goal, despite attempting 25 total shots to Williams' 16.

Just 3:17 into the second period, Williams found an equalizer off a scramble in front of Raeder. The score came off the stick of Andrew Lepore, with assists going to senior Brett Haraguchi and Ryan Young.

With just over six minutes to play in the second period, Sullivan broke free at the end of a penalty kill, only to see Eph defender Brian Malchoff chase him down. Sullivan slammed on the brakes, while Malchoff stayed on his hip to force a harmless back-handed shot.

The horn blew to end the second period with the game tied up 1-1, as Williams looked strong in the frame. After two periods, the Panthers still held a slight 22-18 edge in shots on goal.

After just five minutes of third period action, the Panthers regained the lead 2-1 on a rebound score from senior Leonard Badeau (Marshfield, Vt.). Assists on the eventual game-winning goal went to Sullivan and rookie Tucker Donahoe (Canton, Mass.) .

Midway through the period, Middlebury nearly doubled its lead when Graddock beat Purdy but not the pipe with a blast from the slot. The long-range shot went off the Eph goaltender's glove before nicking the right side of the frame and going wide. With 6:59 to play, the Panthers were able to open up a 3-1 lead as Donahoe banged home a rebound score.

With 1:50 to play in the third, Williams was sent on the power play, and after calling a timeout, pulled Purdy for an extra skater. The Ephs put a handful of shots on Raeder, before Middlebury's Badeau rifled home a short-handed empty-net goal from beyond center ice. Purdy returned to the net to finish out the final seconds of the game, and close the night with 35 saves. Raeder made 29 stops in net for the Middlebury win.

With the trio of third period scores, Middlebury closed out their 19th victory of the year to improve to 19-6-1. With the loss, Williams finished the 2008-09 season with a 15-9-2 mark.
. Men's hockey final record: 19-7-1