HARTFORD, Conn. – After a hard fought battle that broke the record for the longest NESCAC tournament contest, sophomore Nick Bondra potted the game-winner in the 91st minute to push the third-seeded Amherst College men's hockey team past second-seeded Wesleyan University, 1-0 and into the NESCAC Championship Finals.
With the win, Amherst improves to 15-6-4 on the season, while Wesleyan falls to 16-8-2 overall. Amherst returns to the ice tomorrow, Sunday, March 3 when they battle the winner of No. 4 Hamilton at No. 1 Trinity at 2 p.m.
Amherst had a great chance to opening scoring 3:10 into the battle, but first-year Mithell Shults' shot from point-blank was denied by Wesleyan goaltender Tim Sestak.
The Cardinals best chance to score during the first period came at the 14:10 mark with Spencer Fox sending a pass from the right faceoff circle to Tyler Wyatt, however his one-timer from the slot was denied by the Amherst netminder.
Out of the intermission, the Cardinals looked to get on the board with 9:10 expired during a power play, but Walker Harris' one-timer from the high slot was denied. Countering 48 seconds later, the Mammoths' nearly broke the deadlock on a 3-v-2 rush, but Phil Johansson's '19 shot was denied by a stick save from Sestak.
The Cardinals looked for the game-winner with 2:03 remaining in regulation when Andy Espinoza sent a pass from the goal line to Harris, but Harris' blast from the right faceoff circle was denied via a highlight reel, sprawling stop Michael Cullen '21.
At the 18:27 mark, Amherst had its final chance to end the contest in regulation, but Jack Fitzgerald's '19 breakaway attempt went just wide right, forcing the contest into overtime.
After 30 minutes of scoreless overtime action, it was Bondra that played hero for the Mammoths, one-timing P.J.Conlon's '20 dish from the high slot over the blocker of the Cardinals keeper to end the marathon battle.
In between the pipes, Cullen (9-3-1) recorded 39 saves for Amherst in the winning effort, while Sestak (14-5-2) registered the most saves in NESCAC tournament history with 65 in the loss for Wesleyan.
The Mammoths owned a 66-39 advantage in shots on frame, while both sides finished 0-for-1 on the power play.