Men’s Hockey Shows Signs of Brilliance

By HEATHER BOEHM

While the campus was silent over winter break, the men’s hockey team made some noise down on the ice in Kenyon Arena. In their annual Middlebury Holiday Classic, the hosts shutout St. Michael’s 4–0 and slipped past the number three ranked Oswego State 4–3 on their road to victory. The Panthers came back from their successful weekend to face conference foes on home ice on Saturday, Jan. 6. But, their win streak was cut short as the men fell to both Wesleyan 6–1 and Trinity 3–0. Middlebury had another opportunity at home to entertain their loyal fans, but Plattsburgh State held tough and skated past the Panthers with a 3–2 win.

Middlebury showed signs of brilliance on Saturday, Dec. 30, sweeping the visiting St. Michael’s.

It was an even fight throughout the first stanza, with both Vermont teams unable to sneak the puck past their respective goalies. It was not until seconds into the second period that Owen Powers ’20 put the Panthers on the board, giving them the edge over the Purple Knights. He sent the shot to the right post with help from David Belluche ’18. Belluche was not finished yet, as he capitalized off of a perfect pass from Mitchell Allen ’20. This second tally gave the Panthers some room to breathe, but the hosts offense showed no signs of slowing. In the final period Danny Tighe ’20 and Trevor Turnbull ’20 slapped in two more goals to secure their advancement into the finals of the tournament. 

Coming off of a strong showing the day before, the men skated confidently into the rink to upset third-ranked Oswego State 4–3 on Sunday, Dec. 31. The win is the highpoint for the program that continues to stay on schedule with its rebuild.

Oswego’s Tyson Bruce was the first player to knock a goal back in the first three minutes. But it took the Panthers no time to respond. Turnbull came up with the answer within minutes for his second goal of the weekend. After 13 minutes of evenly matched play, the Lakers overcame the Middlebury defense and notched a second tally to their score. 

A 2–1 deficit did not intimidate the Panthers, which Belluche proved true as he countered the Lakers’ shot. With some help from Powers, Belluche evened the score at 2–2 as the team entered the second stanza. The middle period remained scoreless thanks to Stephen Klein ’18, blocking slaps from the Lakers with ease in order to keep his teammates in the game. Middlebury found a way to steal the lead from Oswego at 6:27 in the final period. Charlie Lawrence ’21 energized the crowd with a  goal off of a pass from Allen. After ten minutes, the Lakers netted a shot past the Middlebury goalie off of a power play. 

With the game on the line and the clock counting down, Allen was able to hammer a shot past the St. Michael’s goalie and lift the Panthers past the nationally ranked team. 

Turnbull reflected on the victorious weekend. 

“It was amazing to get a win like that at home,” said Turnbull. “As far as the games go, I think we just kept our play simple against Oswego and outworked them for three periods straight. We definitely surprised them but when we play with that confidence we showed we can beat anyone. On top of that it was also our seniors first tournament championship so to be able to give them that was something a lot of us will always remember.”

Unsurprisingly, Klein received the tournament’s most valuable player considering he closed out the tournament with 34 saves and 65–68 stopped shots. Powers and Belluche earned themselves a spot on the all-tournament team. 

The Panthers returned the following weekend to compete against Nescac rivals. Wesleyan visited Kenyon Arena on Saturday, Jan. 6, and outplayed Middlebury 6–1.

Wesleyan tallied two goals within the first ten minutes of the first stanza. The Cardinals revealed its impressive offense, as Dylan Holze pelted a shot past Klein and Cam McCusker finished off a rebound. Trailing by two, Middlebury found a solution when Alex Heinritz ’21 broke through the Wesleyan defense and scored his first collegiate goal within minutes of the second period. But, the Cardinals quickly slid a shot past the Panthers just a minute later, as Vincent Lima earned one of two goals he would go on to score in the match. Lima increased the lead to 4–1 just before the second stanza came to a close. 

In the final period, the Panthers were unable to find a way past the unrelenting Wesleyan defense despite their previous weekend’s success. Although the hosts were given multiple scoring opportunities, earning four power plays, each one was denied, and the visitors successfully netted two more strikes past Klein to bring the final score to 6–1. 

On Sunday, Jan. 7, the men took to the ice for a matchup against the second conference opponent of the weekend, Trinity. Middlebury fell to the third-ranked Bantams 3–0. 

The teams showed an even matchup as neither team was denied all opportunities to reach the scoreboard until the third period. Klein once again was a major contributor to the scoreless first two periods, as he was able to reject all of the 13 slaps Trinity sent his way within the first 20 minutes. He closed out the match refusing 39 shots, while Bantam goalie left with 18 stops. 

All was silent on the rink until visiting team’s Dylan Healey pelted the puck past Klein in the first breaths of the third stanza. Barclay Gammill doubled Trinity’s lead to promise them a win of 3–0 over their Nescac foe.

The Panthers had their most recent competition this past Friday, Jan. 12 on Kenyon Arena against Plattsburgh State. With winter break now over, the Panthers had a chance to show off their skills to their classmates in the stands. But, the Panthers could not deliver as the visitors stole the win from them 3–2. 

Vincent Gisonti ’18 swiped a rebound past the Plattsburgh goalie to give the Panthers an early lead within the first six minutes. After just 50 seconds, visiting Mike Falanga returned the favor as he took advantage of a rebound and swiped a shot past Klein. Both teams collected two more goals in the first stanza, entering the second with a tie of 2–2. At the 11:57 mark in the middle period, Andrew Pizzo netted the deciding goal of the competition. Both teams would hold scoreless for the remaining time periods, and Plattsburgh would come out over the Panthers 3–2.

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Middlebury fell at home to No. 10 Norwich 5–1. With the score tied at 1, the Cadets scored four unanswered goals to skate past the Panthers. Connor Lloyd ’20 scored Middlebury’s lone goal in the first period, the first goal of his Panther career.

The Panthers have showed signs that they are capable of beating top-notch competition. Look no further than their 4–3 victory of Oswego State.

Next up the 3–11 Panthers head to Waterville, Maine, to take on Colby tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

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