Men’s Hockey Shutout by Bowdoin in Opener

By Charlie Ascher

The Middlebury Men’s Hockey team did not start out the season the way they would have liked. The Panthers fell to Bowdoin 6-0, then tied Colby 2-2 in back to back away games on Nov. 15 and 16. Vincent Gisonti ’18, who scored the first goal of his collegiate hockey career, and Jake Charles ’16 tallied Middlebury’s only two goals of the weekend. 

Middlebury drew a tough opening match-up against Bowdoin, last year’s NESCAC champions. Firing a flurry of shots early, Bowdoin took the lead two minutes and 45 seconds into the first period on a wrap-around goal that found its way past Middlebury goalie Mike Peters ’15. After the opening score the game remained firmly in control of the Polar Bears, as they proceeded to score two goals in each period. Peters stopped 25 of 31 shots in the loss, while the Bowdoin goaltender stopped 20 of 20 Middlebury shots for the shutout.

Co-captain Derek Pimentel ’15, while disappointed with the outcome of the Bowdoin game, remained confident in the team’s ability to adapt and recover. “We had a lot of young guys in the lineup, so it will take some time before they get used to the level of play and the new system this year.” There are nine first-years on the 27-man roster.

It took only 24 hours for the young team to start to adapt, as Sunday’s game against Colby started off much better for the Panthers, who were able to put a lot of pressure on Colby in the opening frame by outshooting them 16 to 7. Middlebury finally found pay dirt and scored the lone goal of the first when Gisonti stuffed a shot inside the left post and past Colby’s goaltender with just over five minutes remaining. Mike Najjar ’17 picked up the assist on the goal.

The first period represented, in Pimentel’s eyes, the best hockey the team played all weekend. Pimentel explained that “one of our team goals for this year is to win every first period, and out-shoot our opponents. We outshot our opponent on Sunday, and we did achieve one of our team goals by winning that first period.”

The strong Middlebury pressure continued into the second period as the Panthers went up two to nothing 30 seconds after a Colby timeout just over 12 minutes into the period. Charles took a pass from Ronald Fishman ’16 and put it past Colby’s goaltender to double the Middlebury lead. Unfortunately, the Mules were able to slip one by the Middlebury goaltender Liam Moorfield-Yee ’16 just over a minute later to bring the Panther lead back down to one.

Just seven minutes into the third, Colby was able to even up the score with a power play goal when their forwards crashed the net.

This lapse in the Panther defense highlighted an issue that plagued the Panthers all weekend: special teams play. Middlebury surrendered two power play goals over the weekend, and was unable to convert with the man advantage despite having fifteen minutes of power play time over the two games. Pimental believes that special teams success should come with more effort.

The score stayed tied for the remainder of the third, and the two teams found themselves in overtime. Exciting moments occurred on both ends of the ice, with Moorfield-Yee turning back a rash of Colby shots, and the Panthers getting stymied by the Colby goaltender on a partial breakaway. Despite both teams’ best efforts, the game ended in a 2-2 tie. Middlebury ended the weekend with a record of 0-1-1, and one point in the standings.

The Panthers will work hard this week at practice now that they know where they stand in comparison to other teams. “We realize that we have to work a little harder,” said Pimentel, who is “excited for us to execute at the level that I know we are capable of.”

Men’s Hockey will have their home opener this Friday, Nov. 21 against Tufts at 7:00 p.m., followed by another home game on Saturday, Nov. 22 at 4:00 p.m. against Connecticut College.