Men’s Hockey Splits against Rival Ephs

By Charlie Ascher

The Middlebury men’s hockey team went .500 in a pivotal rivalry home-and-home against Williams this past weekend, picking up the victory at home on Friday, Feb. 13, 2-0 before losing on the road 5-4 on Saturday, Feb. 14.

The Panthers started off the weekend on a positive note. Coming off a 3-0 shutout win over Wesleyan the weekend before, Middlebury prepared to square off against the 12th-ranked Williams College Ephs. Following an early Williams’ opportunity that was denied by Middlebury goaltender Stephen Klein ’18, the Panthers took control of the period. Less than two minutes after the Williams opportunity, the Panthers were on the board. At 5:57 into the first period Evan Neugold ’16 fired a shot from the crease that was denied, but stuck with the play and slipped in the rebound for his seventh goal of the season. Just 30 seconds into the second period it looked as if Williams would tie the game as a shot dribbled past Klein, but a rapid reaction from Panther defender Terrance Goguen ’16 cleared the puck off the goal line and kept Williams off of the scoreboard. Three minutes later and the Panthers struck again with another goal off of a rebound 4:21 into the second. After Mike Najjar’s ’17 initial shot was saved, Ronald Fishman ’16 picked up the rebound in the slot and put it away. Fishman’s goal was the end of the scoring for the game as both teams clamped down and both goalies came up with some incredible saves. Middlebury managed to end their home season on a good note as they won 2-0 and outshot the Ephs 39 to 22. Klein picked up his third shutout of the season with the victory.

The next day the Panthers looked to continue the positive momentum as they traveled to Williamstown to complete the second half of the home-and-home. It became clear after the first period that Saturday’s game would not be the low-scoring affair that Friday’s was. The Panthers took the lead 12:06 into the first period when Brendan McGovern ’16 picked up the rebound off of a Cameron Romoff ’17 shot and put it past the Williams’ goaltender for his third of the season. Four minutes later, Williams answered to make it a 1-1 game. The tie did not last long however, as the Panthers scored again at the 18:20 mark. Jake Charles ’16 found a rebound in front of the Williams net and backhanded it in to give the Panthers the 2-1 lead going into the second. Six minutes and 24 seconds into the second period  Neugold increased the Middlebury lead to two. Neugold managed to get around both Williams defensemen and then shot it in glove side for a pretty goal. Unfortunately, Middlebury was unable to hold the lead in the high scoring second period and after forty minutes of play the game was tied 3-3. Charles struck once again for his team-leading 10th goal of the season 2:31 into the third. While on the power play Charles deflected a Romoff shot from the point past the Williams goaltender to give Middlebury the 4-3 lead. The lead would not hold, however, as Williams managed to get two more pucks past Klein to give them the 5-4 lead with only 3:48 remaining in the third period. The Panthers went on the power play at the 17:18 mark but were unable to convert and the Ephs picked up the 5-4 victory. Middlebury outshot Williams 39-25 in the loss.

This coming weekend marks the final two regular season games for the Panthers as they jostle for position in the playoff bracket. Currently sitting just under .500 at 9-10-3 overall and 6-7-3 in the NESCAC, the Panthers will look to end the season with a winning record and victories in two key NESCAC away games. The Panthers will square off against Amherst on Friday, Feb. 20 and then play Hamilton Saturday, Feb. 21. While Middlebury has already secured a NESCAC playoff berth, the Panthers have an opportunity to improve their seeding with a good showing this weekend.