College Hockey:
Gifis, Panthers Take NESCAC Title With OT Win Over Bowdoin

— In a battle between NESCAC powerhouses number-one Middlebury and number three Bowdoin, revenge, bragging rights, and home ice for the NESCAC playoffs were all on the line. After a tight defensive game in regulation, Middlebury rookie Lorna Gifis scored the game winning goal at 3:19 of overtime to give the Panthers a 2-1 victory and the right to host the NESCAC tournament.

After Middlebury’s narrow 3-2 win at Bowdoin early in the season, both teams came into the game expecting a hard-fought battle. The first period was marked by back-and-forth action but strong defensive play that kept both teams off the scoreboard. Both the Polar Bears and the Panthers worked to establish the forecheck in each other’s zone, looking for turnovers and creating pressure as the opponent looked to bring the puck out of the zone. Yet despite defensive zone turnovers by both teams, neither Bowdoin nor Middlebury was able to notch the first goal. Each team fired only four shots on net in the period.

The second period saw Bowdoin kill off a penalty early on, but once again, strong defense on both sides thwarted scoring opportunities. Finally, at 16:00 of the second, Middlebury’s Catherine Elkins found the puck on the right side of the Bowdoin net and lifted in into the back of the goal for a 1-0 lead.

The lead would be short-lived, though, as Bowdoin’s Jess Burke got the Bears on the board at 17:32.

The third period saw both teams earn their chances, yet neither team could earn the go-ahead goal. Middlebury was hit with two penalties at 8:19 and 8:30, to Meghan Stone (hooking) and Erin Neil (cross-checking), yet the Panthers held Bowdoin at bay on the five-on-three until Marissa O’Neil was whistled for interference at 9:15, but Bowdoin was unable to capitalize, as was Middlebury once their two penalties expired.

In Middlebury’s second overtime league game against Bowdoin in two years, the Panthers finally were able to tally the game winner, as Gifis took a breakaway in on Bowdoin goalie Emily McKissock for the 2-1 win.

McKissock finished the game with 19 saves in the game, while Middlebury’s Megan Hutchinson made 13 stops.

With the win, Middlebury’s record in NESCAC play moves to 15-0, and 18-1-1 overall. Bowdoin drops to 12-2 in league standings and 18-3 overall. Middlebury’s win gives it a bye next weekend after Sunday’s game against Colby. Bowdoin has games against Williams and Colby remaining; a win in both guarantees it second place for the NESCAC tournament, while one or two losses could bring seeding placements down to tiebreakers against Colby.

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