Middlebury men’s hockey falls in NESCAC final

HARTFORD, Conn. — Amherst on Saturday defeated the Middlebury College men’s hockey team, 4-2, in a NESCAC semifinal played at Trinity. The sixth-seeded Purple & White improved to 12-11-4 by avenging two regular-season defeats to Middlebury, but lost to host Trinity in the final on Sunday.
The fifth-seeded Panthers finished at 8-11-7 under first-year Coach Neil Sinclair and failed in their quest to return to the final for the first time since 2012.
Amherst’s John Festa opened the scoring, netting his first goal of the season right before the nine-minute mark. Festa scooped up a loose puck near center ice before deking around a Middlebury defender and slotting a low wrist shot into the bottom corner. Panther goalkeeper Liam Moorfield-Yee recorded nine of his 20 saves in the opening period.
The Panthers forced their way into the Amherst zone early and often in the second period and nearly capitalized on a power play, but Amherst goalie Connor Girard (26 saves) came up with a number of timely saves.
Amherst doubled its lead near the end of the period, when Thomas Lindstrom put home a feed from Kevin Ryder.
Four minutes into the third period, Amherst extended its lead to 3-0 when Patrick Arena batted in an airborne pass from Brendan Burke.
The Panthers cut into the deficit when Mike Najjar netted his fourth goal of the season just after the midway mark in the period. Najjar collected a pass from Brendan McGovern, before slotting a long-range shot past Girard at 11:54.
Amherst added an insurance goal when Festa put home an empty-net goal with 3:15 remaining. The Panthers’ Max Greenwald picked up his own rebound and muscled in a late goal to close the gap with 52 seconds left. 

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