Middlebury College scored the first three goals and the Panthers posted a 3-1 win against the Hamilton College Continentals in a 2019 NESCAC Women's Hockey Championship semifinal at Williams College's Lansing Chapman Rink on Saturday evening.
Second-seeded Middlebury (16-7-3 overall) will play for its fourth straight conference title on Sunday, March 3 against the top-seeded Williams College Ephs. The Panthers are ranked 10th in the USCHO.com Division III Top 10 poll and are receiving votes in the D3hockey.com poll.
The Continentals (16-8-2) were seeded third for the championship and were making their 17th appearance. Hamilton entered the weekend with the second-best power-play unit in the league and the Continentals were averaging 2.56 goals per game.
Despite a scoreless first period, Hamilton had two good opportunities in the final six minutes with the first coming short-handed. Missy Segall '21 had a shot from the slot that Middlebury goalie Lin Han (16 saves) denied, and Jenna Jewell '19 hit the right post with a snipe from the edge of the left circle.
Middlebury grabbed a 1-0 lead 2:21 into the second period when Shayla Coates redirected a shot from the top of the left circle by Jenna Marotta for her first collegiate goal. Hamilton had a chance to net the equalizer minutes later when Mya Berretta '22 slipped through the Middlebury defense and fired a shot that Han gathered in her pads.
Sidney Portner doubled the Panthers' lead with a power-play goal at 11:21 in the second. Madie Leidt passed to Eva Hendrikson for a slap shot from the point that Portner redirected past Hamilton's Gab Venne '22 (26 saves). Venne entered the game with the top save percentage among NESCAC goaltenders at .955 and was second with a 1.17 goals against average.
Jenna Letterie handed Middlebury a three-goal cushion with a short-handed goal at 12:52 of the third period. During the same penalty Nancy Loh '22, the NESCAC Rookie of the Year, finally broke up Han's shutout bid with her team-high 11th goal. The Continentals maintained control in their offensive zone as Emily Williams '19 fired a shot from the point that was blocked in traffic. Maddie Beitler '21 knocked the loose puck to Loh for a snap shot into the net with 6:21 remaining. Middlebury went 1-for-2 on the power play while Hamilton was 1-for-3.
Hamilton pulled Venne for an extra skater with 1:20 remaining but only managed one shot on goal.
-- Recap by Amanda Ghiloni '22