Men’s Hockey Sits at 2-2 in 2015

By Charlie Ascher

The Middlebury men’s hockey team has begun to turn things around. In their last two home games of the fall semester the Panthers lost 5-3 to Amherst and then shelled Hamilton in a 6-2 victory. The team then returned to action on Jan. 2 in the New Years College Hockey Classic in Lake Placid where they beat St. Michael’s 2-1 and lost to Hobart 4-1. A week later the Panthers lost to Trinity 3-1 and then beat Wesleyan 3-2 in overtime.

Before going on break the team hosted Amherst and Hamilton in back-to-back games at home. Going up against the 15th ranked Lord Jeffs, the Panthers kept it close, erasing successive two-goal and one-goal deficits on two goals from Jake Charles ’16 and a goal from Mark McLellan ’18. It seemed like Middlebury finally took the lead just over halfway through the third, but it was ruled that the goal had come off of its moorings, negating the score. Amherst took the 4-3 lead three minutes later on the power play and sealed the victory with an empty-netter in the final seconds.

Middlebury finished the semester exactly as they hoped. In their last game of 2014 the Panthers were able to shake off the tough loss to Amherst from the previous night and beat Hamilton 6-2. Middlebury was up 3-0 just 12 minutes into the first period as Paul Falvey ’16 scored his first career goal shorthanded 5:10 in, Vincent Gisonti ’18 scored at even strength, and Jake Charles redirected a shot for a power play goal. Hamilton countered the Middlebury attack with two goals of their own, but were never able to equalize. 8:49 into the second period the Panthers scored again when Evan Neugold ’16 intercepted a Hamilton pass and found Mike Najjar ’17, who fired a wrister past the Hamilton goalie. Middlebury sealed the victory with two goals in the third, one from captain George Ordway ’15 and the other from Charles, who scored two power play goals in the game. Goaltender Stephen Klein ’18 played well in net, stopping 22 of Hamilton’s 24 shots, and picked up his first collegiate victory; an experience that Klein feels he “will always remember.”

The Panthers returned to action at the New Years College Hockey Classic in Lake Placid. Middlebury was able to start the New Year on a positive note as they defeated St. Michael’s 2-1 on Jan. 2. Greg Conrad ’17 scored his first goal of the season three-quarters through the first period on the assist from Paul Falvey. The Panthers then took a 2-0 lead with just under three minutes left in the second period when Ronald Fishman ’16 cashed in on the power play. Middlebury was then able to hold on for a 2-1 win, as Klein was once again solid in net, stopping 33 of 34.

In the second day of the tournament the Panthers faced off against the Hobart Statesmen. An early Middlebury goal was disallowed because of a high stick. The Panthers then fell behind 2-0 before cutting the Hobart lead to one on a power play blast from David Belluche ’18 with 31 seconds left in the first. Unfortunately, Middlebury ended up losing 4-1. Middlebury was outshot 35-28 in the loss.

In the first weekend of Winter Term the Panthers had back-to-back road games against the best and worst teams in the NESCAC, first ranked Trinity and bottom seeded Wesleyan. These games provided, as Klein put it, “a measuring stick” to “see where we are at this point in the season.”

The Trinity game was a close fought affair. After falling behind 2-0 in the first two periods, the Panthers were able to cut the deficit to one when Evan Neugold scored through the legs of the Trinity goaltender in the third period. Trinity converted on the power play three and a half minutes later and then held on for the win. Trinity converted on two of their six power plays.
After their tough loss against Trinity, the Panthers squared off against Wesleyan. Middlebury once again found themselves in a 2-0 hole after two periods, but this time they were able to equalize. Driven by the play of captain Derek Pimentel ’15 and leading scorer Ronald Fishman, the Panthers struck twice in the third. Middlebury’s first goal came 4:31 into the third period when Pimentel received a pass from Fishman and fired the puck past Wesleyan’s goaltender. Pimentel then scored again exactly twelve minutes later to tie the game at two goals apiece, this time on the power play, as he knocked a loose puck out of the air and into the Wesleyan goal. Middlebury dominated play in the third but were unable to come up with the game-winner, so play continued to overtime. With just 24 seconds left to play in the five minute overtime period, Fishman received a pass from Pimentel and fired a slapper home, capping a dramatic Middlebury comeback.

The men’s hockey team returns to action this weekend with two tough matchups: a Friday away game at 7th ranked Plattsburgh St. and then a Saturday home game against 3rd ranked Norwich.