Middlebury College’s Caroline Cutter scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period and the Panthers stayed undefeated with a 3-2 win against the Hamilton College Continentals in a 2022 NESCAC Women’s Hockey Championship semifinal at Middlebury’s Chip Kenyon Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Hamilton, which is the No. 4 seed for the championship, ended its season with an overall record of 12-10-0. The Continentals were attempting to advance to the conference final for the first time.
The nationally ranked No. 1 Panthers (23-0-0) are the top seed for this event. Middlebury moved on to the championship final, which will be played on their home ice on Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m.
Despite the loss, Hamilton managed to stay close to the Panthers due in no small part to a strong performance by goaltender Sidney Molnar ’22. Molnar made 35 saves, including 21 in the second period, in her last game for the Continentals. Across the ice, Middlebury’s Sophia Merageas made 10 of her 16 saves in the third period, and prevented Hamilton from scoring the tying goal.
The Continentals didn’t trail until Cutter’s goal with 3:14 left in the second period. Hamilton opened the scoring at 7:20 in the first period on a rebound goal by Nancy Loh ’23. The play began with Maura Holden ’23 passing the puck behind Middlebury’s net, where Emily Ferguson ’24 took control. Ferguson passed the puck to Loh in front of the net for a one-timer. Merageas made the first save but wasn’t able to cover the puck before Loh knocked it into the net. Loh, who also blocked three shots, is second in the NESCAC with 14 goals and fourth with 25 points. She has 69 points in 74 career games.
Madie Leidt tied the score with 5:26 remaining in the first, but Hamilton took back the lead at 3:08 in the second period. On the power play, Mya Berretta ’23 handled the puck in the center before dropping it back to Maddie Hong ’23 at the blue line. Hong tried a wrist shot from the point and Merageas was able to make the save, but the puck remained in play. Jess Haviland ’22 managed to tuck it behind the goal line for her first goal this season and the ninth of her career. Hong picked up her 10th assist.
Claudia Vira tied the score with an unassisted goal at 10:53 of the second. The Continentals pulled Molnar for an extra skater for the majority of the final 1:33 of the third period but managed just one shot on goal.