March 8, 2010

 The Middlebury College women's hockey team Middlebury fell to Trinity in the NESCAC semifinals 2-1 in 4OT, in the longest Division III Women's Hockey game ever played.  Payson Sword scored the game-winner 3:49 into the fourth extra session, as the Bantams picked up the win at Amherst College's Orr Rink. The Panthers did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, marking the first time in the nine-year history of the tournament that Middlebury will not participate.

Trinity, ranked No. 4 in the East and No. 5 in the nation, improves its record to 21-3-2 with its seventh win in a row, while Middlebury, ranked No. 6 in the East and No. 10 nationally, falls to 16-7-3 with its first loss in three games. The game lasted 123:49, breaking the previous record of 101:54 set in the 2007 NESCAC Championship Finals when Amherst defeated Middlebury, 2-1, in three overtimes.

Middlebury put several shots on net early, resulting in several rebound opportunities including a stuff-in by junior Heidi Woodworth (Princeton, N.J.) 3:47 into the contest for the first goal of the game. Panther junior Anna McNally (St. Paul, Minn.) and senior Ashley Bairos (Van Nuys, Calif.) assisted on the play.  The Trinity offense got going late in the first frame, but Middlebury senior Lani Wright (Reading, Mass.) made two tough saves in the final five minutes to keep the Bantams off the board.  In the second period, Trinity defender Laura Komarek snuck a rebound shot past Wright that hit the right post and bounced down just in front of the red line before being knocked away. After a near miss by the Middlebury offense and a successful penalty kill by Wright and the Panther defense, Trinity's Britney McKenna tied the game at 1-1, 12:31 into the second period on a short backhander over Wright's shoulder from Brigitte Cellino. McNally almost reclaimed the lead for Middlebury on a breakaway late in the second, but was stopped on a glove save by Iwachiw, her 12th of the second stanza. Sword finally punched in the clincher on assists by Sarah Kohn and Hannah Harvey during a mad scramble in front of the Middlebury net, after Isabel Iwachiw had stopped five Middlebury shots, including one by first-year player Molly Downey (E. Sandwich, Mass.) on a one-on-one chance, in the opening minutes of the fourth extra session.

The defenses controlled play and both teams played penalty-free in the third period and for the majority of overtime, although McNally broke through the Bantam defenders with the puck on the left wing before firing a shot just wide of the right post with 8:30 left on the clock. Both teams killed off penalties in the latter half of the first extra session. Trinity withstood another short-handed situation early in the second overtime, and both goalies continued to impress despite each nearing their 100th minute between the pipes. Wright got caught behind her net but recovered in time to save a shot by Sword with seven minutes remaining before the fourth intermission, while Iwachiw stopped sophomore Grace Waters (Snyder, N.Y.) and McNally on back-to-back two-on-one chances in the final five minutes. Iwachiw added five saves in the first minute of the third overtime, while Wright stopped a one-on-one wrist shot from the left wing by Trinity's Kim Weiss and the ensuing attempt by Celia Colman-McGaw, who came rushing in by herself for the rebound seven minutes in.  McKenna drew a tripping penalty after breaking ahead of the Panther defense with the puck to give Trinity a power-play opportunity at 12:45 of the third overtime, and Sword forced another trip with a nice move past a Middlebury defender to make it a 5x3 situation for 35 seconds and extend the power-play but Wright continued to hold the Bantams at bay. Trinity killed off a late penalty in the third overtime, although Waters nearly ended it on the power play when she hit the left post with an open shot from close range.

Middlebury held a 34-25 shot advantage through regulation, while Trinity held a 9-4 edge in the first overtime. The Panthers outshot the Bantams 13-4 in the second, while Trinity rallied to put 15 shots on net to just five for Middlebury in the third overtime. Iwachiw finished with 61 saves, while Wright stopped 45 shots for Middlebury. Trinity earns its second win of the season over Middlebury, after posting an 0-18-2 mark against the Panthers over the first 20 meetings between the two teams.

• Women's hockey final record: 16-7-3