After entering the third period of both of this weekend’s games trailing their opponents, the Middlebury men’s hockey team stayed unbeaten in the NESCAC by coming from behind to tie Conn. College 2-2 and defeat Tufts 3-2 on Friday and Saturday Dec. 4-5.
The Panthers traveled to Connecticut College for their first away NESCAC game of the season, hoping to avenge their 1-0 loss to the Camels in the PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut the week before.
They struck first at around 18 minutes into the first period when Mark Lyman ’19 got the rebound off Mike Najjar ’17’s shot and put it home for his first career goal.
The Camels came back to take a 2-1 lead in the second period with two goals from Joe Birmingham assisted by Joe Giordano. Birmingham knocked in a rebound just over halfway through the period to tie the game and drove his go-ahead goal in from the slot with 1:49 remaining in the period.
Down 2-1 with 51 seconds left in the contest, Head Coach Neil Sinclair pulled goaltender Liam Moorfield-Yee ’16 for the extra attacker to try to tie the game at two. Ron Fishman ’16 received the puck at the blue line and passed it to Max Greenwald ’16. Greenwald sent the puck towards the far side where Vincent Gisonti ’18 then redirected it into the back of the net for the game-tying goal.
“I saw Vinny on the back door,” Greenwald said. “I shot it at his stick, he deflected it and it went in.”
The game went to overtime, but neither team could score and the game ended in a 2-2 tie. Moorfield-Yee made 35 saves to move to 0-1-1 for the season in his second consecutive start, while Conn College’s Jonah Conlin, after shutting out the Panthers last game, saved 36 shots.
Middlebury was back on the ice the following night at Tufts. Neither team could get it going offensively in the first period, and it ended tied at zero.
At the 9:34 mark of the second period, Gisonti was whistled for a tripping penalty, giving the Jumbos a one-man advantage. Tufts’ Nick Balboa drove home his first career goal 1:14 into the power play to move his team ahead 1-0. Less than two minutes later, Stephen Bell fired a shot and careened in to punch his own rebound into the net.
For the second straight game, the Panthers’ opponent outscored them 2-0 in the second period to take a lead into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
“In both games we had a strong start, a bad second period, and a great third period,” Greenwald said. “We can definitely improve our second period. We have come out and played down to other teams’ levels.”
Greenwald took matters into his own hands at the beginning of the third period. 2:40 in, he got to a loose puck first and skated towards the net before firing one past the Tufts netminder for the Panthers’ first goal of the game and his first of the season. Paul Falvey ’16 tied the game four minutes later, sneaking his shot from the circle just under the crossbar.
With a little over one minute left in regulation, Zach Haggerty ’16 gathered the puck in the neutral zone and sped into the Tufts zone. He ripped a shot that Tufts goalie Nik Nugnes blocked, but it rebounded to Cameron Romoff ’17, who beat Nugnes for the game-winning goal.
The Panthers outshot the Jumbos 20-10 in the third period and 52-35 overall.
Stephen Klein ’18 got the start in net for Middlebury and made 33 saves, including a couple after Romoff’s goal to preserve the lead, to move to 2-1-1 on the season.
“[Klein] has been playing great for us,” Greenwald said. “Both guys [Klein and Moorfield] have been playing well. I think coach sees that and is rewarding both of them for their hard work and their great play.”
With the win, the Panthers move to 2-2-2 overall and 2-0-2 in the NESCAC. They will put their undefeated record in the conference on the line this weekend when they travel to Hamilton and fifth-ranked Amherst on Friday and Saturday Dec. 11-12.