MIDDLEBURY, VT. -- Sophomore Richard Reuter scored his third goal of the contest with 1:52 left in overtime Saturday as sixth-seeded Williams College upset top-seeded Middlebury, 11-10, in the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament.
The Ephs improved to 9-5 overall and 4-5 in the NESCAC with their fifth consecutive victory and advanced to the NESCAC Championship game for the first time in program history. They will play the winner of the 2:30 p.m. semifinal between Wesleyan and Bowdoin.
The Eph employed a balanced attack to bring down the perennial conference power with Reuter's three scores being complimented by David Hawley's two goals and assist, Michael Vrla's goal and two assists, and Kevin Connolly's two scores. Michael Gerbush continued his charmed run in the net, willing the Eph defense with yet another stellar performance with 16 saves.
Middlebury (12-2, 8-2 NESCAC), winner of the last seven NESCAC titles, dropped their first NESCAC tournament game ever snapping a streak of fifteen straight conference tournament victories. The Panthers were led by the combined efforts of Tom Petty and Matt Ferrer who recorded three and two goals respectively.
The Ephs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the games first 8:22 off of goals from Tim White and Vrla, and almost made it a three score advantage but David Hawley's fifteen-footer was narrowly turned away by Panther goalie Peter Britt (11 saves) less than a minute later. Middlebury would cut the deficit in half by the end of the first quarter, but the stanza belonged to the Ephs who dominated possession and recorded an 8-5 shot advantage.
The two teams traded a pair of scores in the early goings of the second quarter before Petty tied things up for Panthers with a pointblank shot 9:24 into the period. However, the Ephs refused to go into the half tied and Hawley made good with just seven seconds remaining to give Williams a 5-4 lead at the intermission.
Reuter kicked off the scoring for the Ephs in the second half, but the goal sparked a series of score and counter score with each teams compiling three goals but making no progress, before sending the rivals into the final period with the Ephs maintaining a tenuous 8-7 advantage.
Middlebury once again tied things up three minutes into the fourth, but the trend continued as Connolly briefly restored the advantage only to have it erased again with 4:05 remaining. Locked at 9-9 the two teams battled for each possession in the waning minutes, but it was Williams who appeared ultimately poised to finish on top when Connolly recorded his second goal of the period with just fifty-four seconds remaining regulation.
But the defending champs were not flustered, and quickly advanced into Williams's territory and pushed in a goal with just twenty-five seconds left to force the overtime. Both teams had chances to win the game in the final 24 seconds, but the opposing defenses made big stops.
The overtime was extremely contested with both teams managing to produce only one shot. Fortunately for the Ephs that proved to be all they needed, as Reuter's clutch shot gave the Ephs the victory, overthrew the Middlebury dynasty, and propelled them to their first ever NESCAC final.
The Ephs managed to edge the Panthers in shots (Williams: 39, Middlebury: 36) and clears (Williams: 28, Middlebury 26), but the Panthers controlled ground balls with a whopping 49-27 advantage. Making the Williams s victory seem even more remarkable and lending even more credence to their ability.
"We really came out and played from start to finish." remarked Eph Coach George McCormack. "I couldn't be prouder of the kids, and what they accomplished. Now we just got to keep it going."
|Mike Stone||(1, 2)|
|Tom Petty||(3, 0)|
|Jim Cabrera||(1, 1)|
|Pete Smith||(1, 1)|
|Matt Ferrer||(2, 0)|
|Frank Granara||(0, 1)|
|Alex Giammarco||(0, 1)|
|Jeff Begin||(0, 1)|
|Bart Witmer||(1, 0)|
|Skyler Hopkins||(1, 0)|
|Pete Britt||11 (0.500)|