Middlebury will defend its title Saturday night, after a 5-2 win over New England College at home.
Middlebury took its first lead of the night, 3-2, at 10:15 of the third period. Tim Graham fed the puck to defenseman Brett Shirreffs at the blue line. Shirreffs walked in to the high slot and wristed a puck low on the ice through a screen and past NEC goaltender Scott Gray on the glove side for the game winner.
The Panthers took a two-goal lead on Mickey Gilchrist’s goal at 13:16. Patrick Nugent fed it back to Gilchrist, who took a step forward and wristed it under the crossbar from the high slot.
DeCarolis got his second goal of the night on an empty-netter at 18:57.
New England College didn’t muster a shot on goal until the 17:00 mark of the third period, after allowing nine Middlebury shots.
Middlebury had tied the game at 2-2 when Jocko DeCarolis dove from the right side to poke the rebound of Tim Graham’s point blank shot behind Gray into a wide-open hoop.
New England College had taken the lead at 2-1 at 11:51 of the second period on Robin Bjorkman’s power-play goal. Nick Fouts took a cross-ice pass at the point and fed it low to Mike Carmody at the goal line. Carmody dished it to Bjorkman in the slot, and the pinching defenseman wristed it high past Middlebury goalie Ross Cherry.
Middlebury outshot NEC 9-8 in the second period. NEC went 1-for-3 on the power play, while Middlebury was 0-1 and will have 1:40 of man advantage to start the third.
New England College drew first blood at 4:02 of the first period when Rashaun Ewing fed defenseman Greg Tam at the point. Tam lofted a puck from the over traffic in the slot, and beat Cherry over his left shoulder.
Cherry kept NEC to one goal with a spectacular windmill save on a shorthanded shot by Jeff Van Dyke at 7:05 of the first.
Middlebury tied it at 16:54 on Shady Young’s goal. NEC goalie Gray, after making two initial saves, couldn’t find a loose puck in his feet. Eric LaFreniere lay in the crease, trying to poke it home, but Young circled behind the Pilgrims net and tapped it in on the left post.
Shots on goal in the first period were 11-9 Middlebury. The Panthers didn’t tally a shot on goal for the first seven minutes of the contest.