Men’s Hockey Opens Season with Mixed Results

By Andrew Rigas

The Middlebury men’s hockey team opened its new season, and the Neil Sinclair coaching era, by defeating Colby 4-0 and tying Bowdoin 4-4 on Nov. 21 and 22. The following weekend, Nov. 27-28, the Panthers fell to Plattsburgh St. 5-4 and Connecticut College 1-0 in the PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut.

Against Bowdoin in the season and NESCAC opener, the teams looked even in the first period until Panther defenseman Terrance Goguen ’16 scored off a faceoff win by Evan Neugold ’16 with 5:19 remaining.

The Panthers added to their lead 11:21 into the second period during Colby’s power play. Verrier circled behind his net to set up another Colby attack off of a Middlebury clearance, but misplayed it. Vincent Gisonti ’18 beat everyone down the ice and wrapped the puck into the empty net.

“[Vinny’s goal] really sparked us,” Neugold said. “After that, we really controlled the tempo of the game.”

Colby did have several chances to score in the first two periods, but Panther netminder Stephen Klein ’18 was stout all night, saving 28 shots — 26 of which came in the first two periods. The Panthers also successfully killed three Colby power plays in the second period.

Middlebury dominated the third period, outshooting Colby 15-2 and scoring twice more to secure the four-goal victory. Neugold assisted on both goals: first feeding Jake Charles ’16, last season’s leading scorer, for Charles’ first goal of the season, and then setting up Spencer Cage ’19’s first career goal.

The 1-0 Panthers came out hot against Bowdoin the next day, building a 4-1 lead in the first period, but the Polar Bears came back in the third period to tie the game.

Just 4:12 into the contest, Brendan McGovern skated down the right side and beat Polar Bear goalie Peter Cronin.

After Bowdoin tied the game at one, Haggerty put the Panthers back in front with a shot to the top left corner off a feed from Braeden Quast ’18. Gisonti and McGovern made it a three goal lead by the end of the first period with their second goals of the season.

In the second period, Mike Sullivan took one off the Polar Bears’ three goal deficit when he created some space for himself and snuck a wrist shot past Klein.

Off the opening faceoff of the third period, Spencer Antunez scored just seven seconds in, making it a one goal game. With 8:45 left in the period, Bowdoin’s Matt Rubinoff tied the game at four on a shot from the left circle.

“Unfortunately, we stopped playing the way we had the first 40 minutes of the game and they capitalized on a couple of mistakes,” Neugold said.

With a tie score, both teams had one power play, but neither could convert the man-up advantage into a game-winning goal. Klein and Nathan Colannino, who came on in Bowdoin’s net for Cronin, made several saves to keep the score at 4-4 and force overtime. Klein saved 29 of 33 shots on the day, while Colaninno stopped all 21 shots in his direction.

The best chance for either side in overtime came in the closing moments, when Cody Tedesco fired a shot that Klein made a blocker save on. The puck landed in front of the net and all skaters closed on it, but Klein came away with it and the referee blew the play dead to end the game in a tie.

The schedule didn’t get any easier over Thanksgiving break, as Middlebury traveled to Northfield, VT to play number two in the nation Plattsburgh St. in the first round of the PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut hosted by Norwich, falling 5-4 in a back-and-forth contest.

The Panthers scored first again against the Cardinals on Friday, Nov. 27, and did so quickly; Charles notched his second goal of the year just 39 seconds in. Plattsburgh responded less than four minutes later, but Middlebury regained the lead on Matt Doherty ’19’s first career goal less than two minutes later. The Cardinals responded with two goals from Jesse Neher and Cole Stallard to take a one-goal lead into the first break.

The game seemed to be slipping away from the Panthers in the second period, when Plattsburgh extended its lead to two by converting a Middlebury turnover.

However, the game was far from over; 5:02 into the third period, Neugold sent a shot into the top corner of the net on a Middlebury power play, and Gisonti scored his third goal in as many games with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation to knot the game at four.

With a little over five minutes left in regulation, the Cardinals’ Matt Quilty put the Panthers away for good on a power play goal, giving the Cardinals the 5-4 victory and ending the Panthers’ comeback attempt.

“I’m really proud of the way we competed  and the effort that all the guys gave,” Neugold said. “We didn’t get the win but we know we can play with the best teams in the nation.”

The loss pitted Middlebury against Connecticut College in the ShootOut consolation game the following day, and after two periods of scoreless play, the Panthers were defeated 1-0.

Liam Moorfield-Yee ’16, making his first start of the year in net for Middlebury, and Camel goalie Tom Conlin turned away 16 and 18 shots, respectively, in the first 40 minutes.

With 8:25 remaining in the third period, Jake Giordano beat the Panther defense and dished the puck off to Joe Birmingham for the first and only goal of the contest.

This loss to Conn. College brought Middlebury to 1-2-1 on the season. However, since the tournament game did not count in the conference, the Panthers still have a 1-0-1 NESCAC record.

Men’s hockey will travel to Conn. College on Friday, Dec. 4 for a chance to avenge their loss and then on to Tufts on Saturday, Dec. 5.

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