Middlebury senior captain Charlie Townsend scored the game-winning goal with 1:42 remaining in the third period to give the Panthers their eighth NESCAC Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, 3-2, over Bowdoin on Sunday at Sidney J. Watson Arena. With their fourth win over the Polar Bears in the title game, the Panthers (19-4-4) earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA appearance will be the 14th for the Panthers, who missed the tourney for the last two seasons after going every year from '95-'07.
Bowdoin (19-6-1), who lost for the first time in nine games, will likely receive an at-large bid when pairings are announced Sunday night.
Mathieu Dubuc gave the Panthers a two-goal lead after one period of play with a pair of power play goals. After too-many-players penalty against Bowdoin, Middlebury wasted little time converting, taking the initial faceoff and getting a perfectly played pass from Charlie Strauss on the wing to Dubuc in front, who slammed home a one-timer at 3:45 of the opening frame. The Panthers took advantage of a 5x3 power play as later in the frame when Dubuc converted on the back post from Nick Resor with 18 seconds left in the period.
Bowdoin cut the lead in half midway through the second period as Ryan Blossom broke in alone on Yanchek shorthanded, deked the Middlebury netminder, and tucked home the puck at 7:11. The teams traded thrilling 5x3 chances late in the frame with neither team finding the back of the cage as the game entered the third period.
After a frantic first 10 minutes to the stanza, Kyle Shearer-Hardy took control of the puck for Bowdoin at the blue line and fed Blossom on the left wing. Blossom circled around one defender and slapped a shot inside the left post to deadlock the game with 9:23 to play.
Seemingly the game seemingly destined for overtime, Middlebury chipped the puck out of their defensive zone to neutral ice where Townsend won a fight for the puck with under two minutes to play. Townsend skated into the Bowdoin zone and ripped a shot from the right circle that found the top-left corner with just 1:42 to go. The Polar Bears pulled Rossi with 1:34 remaining, but could not find the equalizer as Middlebury skated to victory.
Rossi (14-1-1) was outstanding in his first loss of the season, making 25 stops in the loss. Yanchek (13-2-2) stopped 17 shots in all, including eight in the third period. Middlebury went 2-7 on the power play as Bowdoin accumulated 27 minutes of penalties for the afternoon. The Polar Bears went 0-4 with the extra man. The game was played in front of a packed house of 2,300 at Watson Arena and a peak viewership of over 1,100 people on the video webcast.