Tough Going Early on for Hockey Men

The+Middlebury+women%E2%80%99s+hockey+team+captured+a+big+early-season+victory+over+national+number-four+Gustavus+Adolphus+on+Sunday%2C+Nov.+30%2C+in+the+Panther%2FCardinal+Classic+hosted+by+Plattsburgh.+Just+six+games+into+the+season%2C+Middlebury+has+already+faced+three+of+the+top+four+teams+in+the+country%2C+owning+a+record+of+4-2+during+the+early-season+stretch.

The Middlebury women’s hockey team captured a big early-season victory over national number-four Gustavus Adolphus on Sunday, Nov. 30, in the Panther/Cardinal Classic hosted by Plattsburgh. Just six games into the season, Middlebury has already faced three of the top four teams in the country, owning a record of 4-2 during the early-season stretch.

By Charlie Ascher

It was a busy two weeks for the Middlebury men’s hockey team. After a disappointing first weekend of action in which the Panthers lost to Bowdoin 6-0 and tied Colby 2-2 on the road, the team opened up their home schedule with games against NESCAC rivals Tufts and Connecticut College. The Panthers tied Tufts 2-2 and picked up their first win of the season against Conn. College with a score of 3-2. A week later the team played host to the 17th annual PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout where they lost to Concordia (Minn.) 4-3 and then lost the third-place game to Plattsburgh 4-2.

The Panthers’ home opener began exactly as the team hoped, after goaltender Liam Moorfield-Yee ’16 denied Tufts on a short-handed breakaway, George Ordway ’15 found Mike Najjar ’17 for a power play goal 13:50 into the first period, the team’s first power play conversion of the season. After dominating play throughout the first and second periods, Tufts scored with the two-man advantage three-quarters of the way through the second. Middlebury quickly countered just two minutes later when Vincent Gisonti ’18 scored his second goal of the season on a pass from Ronald Fishman ’16 to return the one-goal lead. Unfortunately, the Panther lead did not hold as Tufts tied it up with just over five minutes left in the third. Neither team was able to find a winner and the score remained 2-2 after the five minute overtime period. Middlebury outshot Tufts 41-25 in the game.

The next day, Saturday Nov. 22, the team was back on the ice at Kenyon Arena for an afternoon game against Connecticut College. Middlebury once again struck first as Najjar turned defense into offense by intercepting a Connecticut pass, skating it into the opposing zone, and wristing a shot into the top-right corner for his second goal of the season 11 minutes into the first. Following Najjar’s goal, the flow of play was firmly controlled by Middlebury as the Panthers outshot the Camels 26-13 in the first two periods. This dominance resulted in two quick goals in the second as Evan Neugold ’16 stuffed home a rebound from Max Greenwald ’16’s point shot and Ronald Fishman converted on the power play with a slap shot from just inside the blue line on a pass from Derek Pimentel ’15. The two goals came just 1:48 apart from each other, a third of the way through the second. Middlebury was then able to weather a strong Connecticut push in the third as goalie Liam Moorfield-Yee made a number of key saves and the team held on for a 3-2 victory, their first of the season.

Thanksgiving break was not as restful for the men’s hockey team as they had to prepare to host the 17th annual PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout that began just a day after Thanksgiving. The annual tournament features Middlebury, Plattsburgh, Norwich, and an invitational contender. This year’s invited team was Concordia College from Minnesota.

 Game one of the tournament was closely contested, with great opportunities on both ends of the ice. Playing against the visiting Concordia College Cobbers, the Panthers fell behind early and were faced with a three goal deficit just 55 seconds into the second period. The game, however, was far from over as the Panthers struck three times in the second to tie it up. Co-captain Pimentel provided the team with a spark as he scored with a slap shot from the top of the right circle on the power play 2:10 into the second. Middlebury continued pressing and seven minutes later Brendan McGovern ’16 scored his first of the season with a well placed wrist shot into the top-right corner of the Concordia net. 55 seconds later, the game was all tied up. Ronald Fishman fed Mark McLellan ’18 with a pretty pass from behind the Concordia net and McLellan put it away with a one-timer. Concordia managed to regain the lead less than two minutes later on an unfortunate bounce as a Cobber pass went off of a Middlebury defender and past goaltender Liam Moorfield-Yee. The Panthers had several good opportunities to tie the game back up in the third but were unable to convert. After their 4-3 win Concordia went on to win the tournament.

There was no rest for the weary as the Panthers were forced to turn around and play Plattsburgh in the third-place game just 21 hours after their tough loss to Concordia. The team’s exhaustion was evident as they fell into a four-goal deficit by the midway point of the third period. When it seemed like the game was all but over, Middlebury rallied and scored on two straight power play opportunities two minutes apart from each other three-quarters of the way through the third. Jake Charles scored on a redirect of a Greenwald slap shot and Gisonti put home a rebound off the Concordia goaltender. The comeback fell short, however, and Middlebury lost 4-2.

Defenseman Fishman was named to the all-tournament team.

Fishman commented on the honor, as well as the team’s performance over the weekend.

“I can utilize this to perform to the best of my ability to help the team win games,” Fishman said. “I can see good things happening once we tighten up on our mistakes.”

The men’s hockey team is back in action on home ice for their last two games of 2014 this week. The Panthers play rival Amherst at 7 p.m. on Friday Dec. 5 and Hamilton at 4 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 6 in two important NESCAC divisional games.