Amherst Wins Program's First NESCAC Crown in Triple Overtime Thriller at Middlebury, 2-1

MIDDLEBURY, VT. – The Amherst College women's hockey team played in what could easily end up as the 'Game of the Year', taking a 2-1 win over top-seeded Middlebury in triple-overtime for the NESCAC title. The win gives the Lord Jeffs an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Tournament, and the program's first ever NESCAC Championship.

Amherst jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just fifteen minutes into the first period on a goal from Anna MacLean (Edina, MN), with assists coming from Lindsey Harrington (Westwood, MA) and Rachel Simon (West Orange, NJ). National powerhouse Middlebury refused to go-away, as they evened the score at one goal apiece just 1:48 later on a tally by Karen Levin on the power-play.

From that point on the scoring would halt for the next eighty-plus minutes, but the action would never slow. Middlebury increased their forecheck throughout the second and third periods, and Amherst continued to play solid defense and spring it's forwards on promising counter-attacks.

Anchoring the Amherst defense was first-year goaltender Krystyn Elek (Summerville, SC), who continuously denied the Panthers a goal-ahead goal. At the ten-minute mark of the third period, Middlebury star and the 2006-07 NESCAC Player of the Year, Abby Kurtz-Phelan was set free down the right wing alone on Elek. The young Amherst stopper made what was perhaps the biggest save of her life, stopping the forward with an amazing glove save after Kurtz-Phelan went to the backhand.

In the final minute of regulation, Elek denied Randi Dumont on the doorstep with a shoulder save, sending the game into extra frames. The first overtime period brought tons of furious action, as Amherst pushed to get a goal before their legs gave out, having played in an overtime game just yesterday.

Middlebury controlled the run of play early in the overtime periods, as the host Panthers pushed for a fourth consecutive NESCAC title. Amherst would not let their fairy tale story end easily, as they dug deep for some extra energy.

Middlebury out shot Amherst a combined 29-10 in the first two overtime periods, but Elek held strong, stopping everything thrown at her. The two NESCAC titans headed to the locker rooms knotted at 1-1 after 100 minutes of play.

Coming out of the fourth intermission, both teams looked exhausted, but it would only take 1:54 seconds for Amherst to complete their Cinderella finish. Kate Dennett (Highland Ranch, CO) carried the puck around the back of the net, and attempted a wrap-around shot. Middlebury netminder Lani Wright slid across the crease and made the initial stop with her leg pad, but MacLean quickly snapped the rebound over Wright's side and into the net.

Elek, lived up to her billing as the 2006-07 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, and All-Cofernece First-Team selection, making 65 saves in the game, a career-high. Elek repeatedly came up huge late in the game, shutting out the nation's second-ranked team for 85 minutes to end the game. Elek set new NESCAC Tournament records for saves in a single game (65) and a tournament (127) while her Middlebury counterpart played solid, turning away 22 shots.

Amherst will return to the ice later this week in the NCAA Tournament opening round, with an opponent, location and time to be determined later this evening.