MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The Bowdoin women's ice hockey team won its third NESCAC Championship and first since 2004 with a 2-1 victory over host Middlebury.
The Polar Bears (21-4-2) earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will find out their fate at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow when the selections are announced. Bowdoin last claimed the NESCAC crown in 2004 when current head coach Marissa O'Neil was a senior captain. Bowdoin also claimed the title in 2002.
The Panthers finish with a 18-7-2 record and will look for an at-large bid during the selection show.
Bowdoin jumped on the board just 58 seconds into the first period. Chelsea MacNeil intercepted a pass in the Bowdoin zone, quickly finding Ariana Bourque on the right side. Bourque's shot was stopped by Annabelle Jones with MacNeil pouncing on the rebound and finishing for her 13th of the year.
Middlebury tied the game midway through the period with a power play goal at the 10:23 mark. Madison Styrbicki made a slap pass to Sara Ugalde on the right side, before she made a quick centering pass to Lauren Greer in the slot. Greer quickly one-timed a shot into the back of the net for her 10th of the season to tie the game at 1-1. Middlebury put a lot of pressure on the Bowdoin net with two more power play opportunities, but Kayla Lessard kept it a 1-1 tie with 11 first period saves.
Middlebury had two great chances in the second period, but Greer missed high at 7:15, while Lessard made a partial glove save on Mackenzie Martin just over a minute later. Bowdoin turned up the pressure in the second half of the period with several shots on goal, but Jones turned them all aside leaving the game in a 1-1 tie.
Bowdoin scored the game-winner 2:49 into the third period, taking advantage of a Panther turnover. Kayte Holtz intercepted the puck and made a nice backhanded pass to Colleen Finnerty, who scored from the left side with her fourth of the season.
Middlebury turned up the pressure at the 13:30 mark, as Hannah Bielawski walked in and was stopped by a nice save from Lessard. Moments later, Jennifer Krakower was denied with Katie Sullivan's second attempt on a great look going just wide. Middlebury continued the flurry as Krakower's blast from the right side hit the pipe 10 seconds later.
The game settled as the Panthers were looking to tie the game late in the contest. Jones left the net with 1:10 remaining, but Middlebury was unable to muster up a quality scoring chance as Bowdoin held on for the victory.
Bowdoin finished with a 38-25 shots advantage in the game, as Lessard made 24 saves in goal. Jones made 36 stops between the pipes for the Panthers.
The Polar Bears will learn their pairing for the NCAA tournament tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.