BRUNSWICK — Charlie Townsend scored an unassisted goal with 1:42 left in the third period to give second-seeded Middlebury a 3-2 win over top-seeded Bowdoin in the championship game of the NESCAC men’s hockey tournament Sunday.

It’s the eighth championship for the Panthers (19-4-4) in the tournament’s 11-year history, and the fourth time they’ve beaten Bowdoin (19-6-1) in the title game.

Middlebury earned the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament, while Bowdoin received at-large invitation. The Polar Bears received a bye into the quarterfinals and will play Saturday at Oswego State in Oswego, N.Y.

Bowdoin fought back from a 2-0 deficit, getting a pair of goals from Ryan Blossom. Blossom’s second goal, on a slap shot from the left side of the slot off a feed from Kyle Shearer-Hardy, tied it with 9:23 left in the third period.

With overtime looming, Townsend pounced on a loose puck near the Bowdoin blue line, skated to the right circle and ripped a shot high to the left of Bowdoin goalie Chris Rossi.

“I’ve watched him practice that shot over and over … usually without a goalie in net,” said Middlebury Coach Bill Beaney. “And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer young man. He’s worked very hard for four years but hadn’t played a lot until this year, and now he’s one of our captains.”

Bowdoin Coach Terry Meagher called a timeout, and Rossi was pulled for an extra skater with 1:34 remaining, but the Polar Bears could not get the equalizer.

“They were the better team, looking at the full 60 minutes,” Meagher said. “It’s a lot of work to come back against a good team. Once we settled down, we played the way we’re capable of, but we had a hard rock to push against with so many things going on.”

Bowdoin missed a great opportunity to take the lead in the opening minute when Jeff Fanning made a backhand pass that sent Shearer-Hardy in alone on goalie John Yanchek, but Shearer-Hardy shot high.

“We had our chances and left a few goals on the table,” said Meagher, “and it would have been nice to get one right there.”

The Panthers scored on their initial shot at 3:45, just seven seconds into a power play, as Mathieu Duboc one-timed a pass from Mathieu Castonguay.

Bowdoin was two men down when Duboc made it 2-0 just 18 seconds before the end of the period, converting a pass from Nick Resor while stationed alone at the left post.

“The first 20 minutes were uncharacteristic for us in that we didn’t play with discipline, and good teams capitalize on your mistakes,” said Meagher. “We were lucky we didn’t fall farther behind.”

The Polar Bears were outshot 11-4 in the first period and were just hoping to survive a five-minute major in the second when Blossom collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in on Yanchek. He faked to his backhand before shifting back and stuffing the puck inside the right post to cut the deficit to 2-1.

After Blossom’s second goal tied it, the capacity crowd may have figured the Polar Bears were on their way to a memorable win, but Middlebury had an answer.

“I think they probably felt a sense of relief after coming back to tie it,” said Beaney. “But I think we had a little energy burst, and realized we had to get going again.”


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