Men’s Hockey Beats Top-Ranked Foes

By Charlie Ascher

The Middlebury men’s hockey team had their best showing of the season, displaying a true commitment to defense in their victories over third-ranked Plattsburgh (3-1), and second-ranked Norwich (3-0).

The Panthers started off the weekend on the road with a tough matchup against the Plattsburgh Cardinals on Friday, January 16. Earlier in the season, Plattsburgh beat Middlebury 4-2, but things went differently this time around. The Panthers took the lead 8:49 into the first period when Ronald Fishman ’16 scored off a pretty cross-ice pass from Max Greenwald ’16. Fishman’s goal was, according to Captain George Ordway ’15, the goal that “set the tone for the course of both games and [the team] really never stopped working after that goal.”

The Panthers then doubled their lead a quarter of the way through the second period when Cameron Romoff ’17 fired a quick wrister past the Cardinals’ goalie on a pass from Evan Neugold ’16. 11 seconds later, Plattsburgh cut the Middlebury lead in half as a puck just barely managed to slip past Stephen Klein ’18.  Middlebury sealed the game with more exceptional play by special teams. While on the penalty kill, Ordway stole the puck and sniped a shot glove side to give Middlebury the 3-1 lead. Klein stopped 19 of 20 Plattsburgh shots to pick up his fourth win of the season, while Middlebury outshot Plattsburgh 22-20.

On Saturday, Jan. 17, the Panthers squared off against the Norwich Cadets. After an early chance by Norwich went off the pipe less than a minute into the first period, Middlebury took control. Just 30 seconds after Norwich’s missed opportunity, Mike Najjar ’17 dished a pass to Ordway  from behind the net and Ordway rifled it in on a one-timer.

From then on, Middlebury continued to dominate the period, keeping the Cadets’ offense at bay by outshooting them 11-5. Middlebury’s efforts paid off three quarters through the first period, when Brendan McGovern ’16 grabbed a loose puck in the Norwich slot, made a quick move to the left, and shot it past the Norwich goalie. A packed Kenyon Arena went crazy.

After killing off a Norwich power play and failing to convert on a power play of their own, the Panthers struck again 12:25 into the second period. Zach Haggerty ’16 won a puck battle along the boards and found Greg Conrad ’17 in front of the goal. Conrad stuffed it in for his second goal of the year to seal Middlebury’s 3-0 lead.

The third period proved a stressful one as Norwich went on the attack, looking to come back from their three-goal deficit. Middlebury goalie Klein was up to the task as he made a number of key saves, including an acrobatic diving save which closed off what looked to be an easy empty-net goal for Norwich. Not a single of Norwich’s 25 shots made it into the Middlebury goal as Klein picked up the first shutout of his college career.

This victory snapped a nine-game Middlebury losing streak to Norwich that has stretched back to the 2008-2009 season, and helped Middlebury improve its record this season to 6-6-2.

The Panthers were dominant on the penalty kill all weekend, killing off all 10 extra man opportunities and scoring a shorthanded goal in the process. The team applied constant pressure on the puck, blocking shots and limiting Norwich’s access to the Middlebury zone.

Up next for the men’s hockey team are two key home NESCAC games. The Panthers will face Bowdoin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, and then play Colby at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday in Kenyon Arena. According to Ordway, the team will need to “prepare with intensity and determination to be even better than we were this weekend.”