Men’s Hockey’s Slump Continues

By HEATHER BOEHM

While the rest of campus enjoyed February break either in the sun or on the slopes, the men’s hockey team celebrated the competition in the rink. Middlebury earned a tie against both Conn. College on and Tufts, leaving the weekend before break with a 2–2 score against the Camels on Friday, Jan. 26, and a 1–1 count, Saturday, Jan. 27, against the Jumbos on Saturday. The men then fell to three conference teams over the next two weekends, losing to Wesleyan 3–1 on Friday, Feb. 2, Trinity 3–0 on Saturday, Feb. 3, and Williams twice by a score of 2–1 on Friday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 10.

The Panthers kicked off the last weekend of January hosting the Camels in Kenyon Arena and looked to avenge a 5–0 loss earlier in the season.

Both teams’ defenses held tough throughout the first period, preventing either offense from gaining any advantage. It was not until five minutes into the second stanza when Conn. College’s Mason Evans capitalized off a power play. He slid a shot past the Panther goalie to lift his team ahead, a lead that would hold until the third period.

The hosts found the back of the Camel net just 56 seconds into the last period. Frank Cosolito ’20 worked his way past the Conn. College defense with ease, when he slapped the puck giving the Panthers their place on the board. The pressure was on both teams as they skated around Kenyon searching for an opportunity. The Camels were the first to respond five minutes later when Ryan Petti reacted quickly to his teammate’s rebounded attempt, and knocked a shot past Middlebury.

With time running out, the Panthers were anxious to equalize the competition. Although the Conn. College defense was impenetrable, Kamil Tkaczuk ’19 finished off Cosolito’s rejected effort with only a few minutes remaining, tying the game at two. Neither team scored in overtime, and the final score remained.

After their 5–0 loss earlier in the year, Middlebury tied Conn. College this time around, holding their own in Kenyon Arena.

“I think for us it comes down to being focused and playing our game for the whole 60 minutes,” said Danny Tighe ’20. “Earlier in the year we came out flat against them, whereas this time around we were ready to go from the start.”

On Saturday, Jan. 27, Middlebury faced Tufts for the second time this season, after beating the Jumbos 2–0 in December, and hoped to sweep the visitors. Their hopes were not realized as the Jumbos put up a tough fight, tying the Panthers 1–1.

Neither team was able to edge past one another in the first period. Stephen Klein ’18 played well all game, allowing only one of the 40 shots on goal past him.

“Klein has been playing great in net for us, but we just need to bury more of our own offensive chances,” said Tighe. “I think that starts with us placing heightened emphasis on executing when we work on scoring in practice.”

At the 9:31 minute mark in the second period, Tufts broke the tie. Ross Delabruere quickly jumped on a rebound, and Tufts led 1–0. But Middlebury had an answer for the visiting Bostonians less than eight minutes later, when Vincent Gisonti ’18 scored his third goal of the season on a power play opportunity. Brendan Dawson ’20’s shot was blocked, but Gisonti stayed with the play and hammered the rebound past the Jumbo goalie, tying the game at one. The score stay that way, as neither team could break through the rest of regulation or in overtime.

The Panthers traveled to Connecticut the following weekend to face Wesleyan on Friday, Feb. 2, looking at another opportunity to redeem themselves after dropping their last matchup 6–1.

Neither the Panthers nor their opponents scored in the first period for the third straight game, but Wesleyan snuck their way past Klein at 10:12 in the middle period on a powerplay. Four minutes later, the Cardinals doubled their lead when Matthew Zandi slapped the puck Klein

In the final stanza, Brett Dineen ’20 found the back of the net to put Middlebury on the board. The Panthers hope of knotting the score was quashed soon after when Jordan Jancze increased the Cardinal lead to two. Middlebury could not respond to that goal, and fell to Wesleyan 3–1.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, the men continued their journey in Connecticut when they faced Trinity. The men once again fell to the No. 5 Bantams by the same 3–0 score.

Following the same pattern, Middlebury defense proved impermeable in the first period but could not score either, entering the locker room knotted at zero still. It took the Bantams until the 17:34 mark in the second period to get by Middlebury. Michael Grande earned Trinity their first of three goals after a creating his own opportunity in a remarkable effort.

The Panthers refused to back down from this one-goal deficit. They continued to hold Trinity at bay, despite the Bantams offensive onslaught on Klein.

Trinity closed out the game in the final period. Ryan Pfeffer hammered in an easy shot six minutes into the stanza, giving the hosts a two-goal lead. Nicholas Polsinelli followed up Pfeffer, scoring on an empty net to give Trinity a 3–0 victory.

Heading into this past weekend, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9 and 10, the Panthers had two good opportunities to topple a Williams team in the bottom half of the Nescac standings as well.

In the first contest on Friday at Williams, neither team scored in the first period. This continued Middlebury’s trend of strong defense, despite Williams significant advantage in shots. Finally, 10 minutes into the second period, Gisonti broke the silence. Off a Williams turnover, he broke past the Ephs to drive home his fourth goal of the season.

Gisonti’s goal fired up his teammates, as well as the Williams offense. So much so, that the Ephs has a response at the 17:40 mark in the same period. The hosts matched the visitor’s tally when C.J. Shugart got past Klein to make it anybody’s game once more.

Both teams grinded for the win in the final stanza but neither could break the tie in a highly contested third period, and the game entered overtime.

With no score in the first 4:30 of overtime, Middlebury pulled its goalie, needing a win to if they wanted to move out of last place and into the Nescac playoffs. But the move backfired when Williams’ Colby Cretella found the back of the empty net with ten seconds remaining to give Williams the 2–1 win.

Middlebury trailed Williams in shots on goal by 22 shots (43–21), as Klein turned in another impressive performance, stopping 41 shots.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, the two teams returned to the ice, this time in Kenyon Arena.

For the seventh game in a row, the Panthers held off their opponents in the first period. Although the Panthers did not score, they Trevor Turnbull ’20 and Kamil Tkaczuk ’19 had separate opportunities when they almost did beat the Williams netminder.

In the second period, C.J. Shugart again proved to be a danger to the hosts. Within the first minute, he took advantage of a power play and redirected a shot from his teammate to put his team in the lead. But, the junior from Toronto was not satisfied yet. With just a few moments remaining in the period, Shugart’s teammate found him after collecting a rebound, and whipped a shot past the Panthers.

Despite going down by two, the hosts were determined to find a way past Williams. The Panthers found some life in the eighth minute of the final stanza. Alex Heinritz ’21 slid in his second goal of the season on a power play to give bring his team within one and give it a fighting chance.

Middlebury found some opportunities in the final remaining minutes, but was unable to finish them off, losing its fourth straight game.

Middlebury will look for a way to end its losing streak when they play their last two games of the regular season this weekend. Mathematically eliminated from the Nescac playoffs, the Panther seniors will play their last two games in the blue and white on Friday, Feb. 17, when they host Hamilton, and Saturday, Feb. 18 when they welcome Amherst to Kenyon Arena.

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Men’s Hockey’s Slump Continues