Men’s Hockey Mirrors Last Season with Streak of Wins

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Men’s Hockey Mirrors Last Season with Streak of Wins

By Owen Teach

On Feb. 4, 2012, the then 7-8-3 Middlebury men’s hockey team defeated Wesleyan 3-2 on the road. Following that win, the team went on a 7-1-0 run to end the season, losing a closely fought NESCAC championship game to Amherst.

While the 2013 season is far from over for the Panthers, Middlebury’s 4-1 win against Connecticut College on Jan. 25 so far has propelled the team to an eerily similar result, both in timing and in form, as last year’s squad. After the Conn. Coll. victory, Middlebury skated to three straight wins against Tufts, Wesleyan and Trinity, before splitting a home-and-home series with Williams this past weekend, February 9 and 10. The Panthers, now 11-9-2, are 6-2-0 in their last eight games and sit at third place in the NESCAC with a conference record of 10-4-2. This weekend’s games against Hamilton and Amherst, Feb. 15 and 16, mark a turning point for the Panthers, as the team could finish anywhere between first or fifth in the NESCAC with the tournament looming.

One of the most noticeable changes for the Panthers has been in the net. Following a 3-0 defeat against Bowdoin on Jan. 19, head coach Bill Beaney turned to Dan Fullam ’15, a keeper that previously only had one start on the season. Since filling in at net, Fullam has posted a 4-1-0 record, with his only hiccup coming last Saturday, Feb. 9 in a 6-2 at Williams where he was lifted in favor of Nick BonDurant ’14. Fullam spoke about his mentality after Beaney called his number for the start.

“I was definitely motivated going in when I did because I knew our team was at a crucial point in the season and we needed to get a pair of wins to get on a roll before the end,” said Fullam. “Our team responded very well to the adversity we faced and obviously winning four in a row was a promising sign.”

While Beaney is encouraged by the play of his goalkeepers, he also mentioned that the team, especially with Fullam now nursing a minor injury, is still looking for a consistent starter going forward. Mike Peters ’15 was given his first start of the year in Sunday’s 3-1 win against Williams, making him the fourth Middlebury goalie to see ice time this season.

“We’re trying to settle on a guy who is going to give us the best chance to win night in and night out,” said Beaney. “It’s frustrating for [the goalies] if they don’t get consistent starts, but its also frustrating for us when we’re trying to find the right guy to lead us going forward. It is very rare to start four goalies in year.”

Another positive trend for the team is a recent increase in scoring, as prior to the Conn. Coll. win the Panthers failed to score more than two goals in seven of nine games dating back to Dec. 8.

Since the win against the Camels, Middlebury has outscored opponents 23-15, with Derek Pimentel ’15 (21 points), Louis Belisle ’14 (11 goals) and Mat Silcoff ’16 (18 points) leading the way on offense. Beaney highlighted his team’s recent offensive output.

“Playing so many young guys early on took the players time to get acclimated to the pace of play and physicality, as well as to our unique system,” said Beaney. “Our group has been playing with greater awareness and is much more ‘in the zone’ than when we were going through that [scoring] drought. If you look at the team, it’s a balanced group, and its not one guy getting it done game in and game out. That’s a great thing, but when you have to score by committee everyone has to be ready.”

Beaney also pointed to better play in his team’s defensive zone as a key contributer to the team’s strong play.

“Part of the reason for our most recent success is that practice has been consistent, while play in our defensive end has been better,” said Beaney. “We’ve made a much better defensive effort and this leads to offensive opportunities, including many transition goals.”

Looking forward, the team has its sights set on closing the season strong, as this coming weekend’s results will determine if Middlebury will host one or more NESCAC tournament games.

“I feel like our team is ready to make a run in the NESCAC tournament,” said Fullam. “Another successful weekend will be crucial as we head into playoffs and hopefully secure a first-round home game.”

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Men’s Hockey Mirrors Last Season with Streak of Wins