Amid Struggles, Career Milestone for Beaney

By Charlie Ascher

The Middlebury men’s hockey team have had a tough past two weeks that ended in a milestone achievement. The Panthers lost to Tufts 2-1 and were shut out by Connecticut College 3-0 in two away games on Jan. 30 and 31 before returning to Kenyon Arena the next week and losing to fourth-ranked Trinity in overtime 2-1 and then beating Wesleyan 3-0 for Head Coach Bill Beaney’s 600th career victory.

Bowdoin took the 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game when a Bowdoin pass took a weird bounce off of a Middlebury defender and landed right on the stick of a Bowdoin forward, who managed to snap a shot past Stephen Klein ’18. Middlebury answered just over two minutes later on the power play when Evan Neugold ’16 picked up his third of the season. After the quick flurry of goals to start the game the two teams locked down as the game evolved into a defensive showcase. Middlebury had a couple of stellar chances in the second but were unable to put any past the Bowdoin goaltender. 

The Panthers were able to take the 2-1 lead early in the third period when Mike Najjar ’17 put home the rebound from a shot from Cameron Romoff ’17. Middlebury was then granted an opportunity to put the game away when a Bowdoin player boarded a Panther resulting in a five-minute boarding major and a game-misconduct 11:49 into the third. It seemed as if Middlebury had cashed in on the extended power play when it appeared as if Mark McLellan ’18 was able to put in a rebound off a David Belluche ’18 shot from the point, the red light went off and the fans cheered, but the ref made a controversial no-goal call, claiming that the puck had never completely crossed the line. Bowdoin was then able to equalize with 1:22 left in the third when they pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. 

The game then went to overtime where, despite having an early power play, the Panthers were unable to pot the game winner, ending the game as a 2-2 tie. Middlebury outshot Bowdoin 36-19 in the contest.

After their frustrating tie to Bowdoin the day before Middlebury had to quickly turn around and face off against Colby in an afternoon game in Kenyon Arena. 

After a closely contested first period Middlebury was able to take the lead on a goal from Neugold. After two successive Middlebury penalties just under halfway through the second Colby was able to cash in on a five on three power play to tie it up. Five minutes later Middlebury responded with a power play goal of their own. After setting up in the offensive zone Middlebury cycled the puck around before Romoff found an opening and shot it into the top left corner of the Colby net. Once again, Colby was able to equalize as they managed to put a wrap-around past Klein 1:17 into the third period. The back-and-forth game continued as Middlebury took the lead on the power play 12:09 into the third. Charles tipped in a Max Greenwald ’16 shot for his team pacing seventh goal of the year. 

The Panthers were once again unable to hold on to the lead as Colby equalized with 1:58 left in the third, forcing a second game in a row into overtime. This time, however, the Panthers were able to convert. 59 seconds into the five-minute overtime period Charles scooped up the rebound from a Brendan McGovern ’16 shot and put the game away with a quick shot into the back of the Colby net. Klein stopped 19 of 22 Colby shots in the win as Middlebury outshot the Mules 35 to 22. Middlebury started off the February break away at Tufts. By the midway point of the game Tufts managed to squeak the puck by Middlebury goaltender Liam Moorfield-Yee ’16 twice, putting the Panthers into a two-goal deficit. Middlebury got on the board just four minutes after the second Tufts goal when captain Derek Pimentel ’15 put home the rebound off a Zach Haggerty ’16 shot. Despite continued pressure for the remainder of the game, the Panthers were unable to get any more pucks past the Tufts goaltender. Middlebury outshot Tufts 32-22 in the 2-1 loss.

The next away game, a day later, did not go any better for the Panthers. After the tough loss to Tufts, Middlebury faced off against Connecticut College. After a closely contested first period during which the Middlebury penalty kill stood on its head, Connecticut College got one by Middlebury goaltender Klein with 1:32 remaining in the first. From then on the Camels dominated the game and Middlebury ended up losing 3-0 as they were outshot 35-16.

After the tough weekend, Middlebury had to regroup as they prepared to host the fourth-ranked Trinity Bantams. After a closely contested first period it was 1-0 Trinity as the Bantams managed to get one by Middlebury goalie Klein with 50 seconds remaining. The second period featured plenty of excitement but no change in the scoreline.Both teams’ goaltenders made key stops, with Trinity getting a little help from their left post as McGovern’s shot made it past the goalie but hit iron and bounced away. 

The Panthers went into the third looking to equalize. Middlebury poured on the pressure, playing the majority of the period in Trinity’s defensive zone. After a number of good chances, including another shot which rang off the pipe, Middlebury was able to equalize with their goaltender pulled and just 14 seconds remaining in the period. Neugold collected the rebound off a Ronald Fishman ’16 blast from the point, skated around the goal, and stuffed home the wraparound to tie the game at 1-1. However Trinity was able to come away with the victory as they scored just 47 seconds into the sudden death overtime period. Middlebury outshot Trinity 34-15 in the contest.

Middlebury was finally able to get a win in their next game. Hosting Wesleyan, the Panthers put pressure on early, with the hard work finally paying off 16:35 into the first period. Neugold picked up the rebound off a Greg Conrad ’17 drive to the net and shot it top shelf for his sixth of the season. Middlebury then doubled their lead on the power play 2:22 into the second period when Pimentel scored off the rebound from a Romoff  shot from the point. Continuing to dominate play, the Panthers took a dominant 3-0 lead 14 minutes later. Fishman skated into the slot and then dropped the puck back to Najjar who made no mistake in rifling it home. Middlebury outshot Wesleyan 37-13 and Klein picked up his second shutout of the year. 

Overshadowing all other achievements from the game, however, was what the victory represented for Beaney. Now in his 35th season as a head coach and his 28th year leading the Panthers, Beaney picked up his 600th career victory, making him the 12th coach in NCAA history to reach the milestone as well as the NCAA leader in Division-III victories.

The Panthers are now gearing up for the final stretch. This Friday, Feb. 13 marks the last home game of the season as Middlebury squares off against Williams in a pivotal home-and-home series. Middlebury completes the series away at Williams on Saturday. Puck drop for both games is at 7:00pm.