Men’s Hockey Closes Out Season with a Draw

By HEATHER BOEHM

Kenyon Arena was roaring with a rambunctious crowd last weekend as Middlebury fans spilled in each and every door for the last action of the 2017-18 season. In their first contest on Saturday, Feb. 17, the Panthers fell to Hamilton 1–0 after the Continentals found the back of the net in the final period. On Sunday, Feb. 18, the Panthers tied Amherst 2–2 — demonstrating the strides the team has made throughout the season, as they fell to the Mammoths 4–1 just over a month ago.

Knowing that these two games would be their last of what has been a tough campaign, the Panthers gave it all they had, sliding around the ice to defend their net. Despite their strongest efforts, Hamilton scored the only goal of Saturday’s matchup in the third period to win 1–0.

Stephen Klein ’18 was a hero once again, blocking shot after shot in the first 40 minutes of play.

Although both teams had many offensive opportunities to take the lead, it was Hamilton who finally found a way past Klein six minutes into the third stanza. Nick Ursitti did not give the Panthers a fair chance when he nailed a shot inside right post of the host’s territory.

Klein rounded out the game with a resounding 36 saves compared to the Hamilton goalie’s 27.

The following day the Panthers skated onto the ice looking to close out their regular season with a bang. Earlier this season they lost to Amherst and were hungry to leave their season with a win over their rivals. But, after a hard-fought campaign, Middlebury tied the Mammoths 2–2.

Middlebury opened the competition with flashes of strong offense and nearly got on the scoreboard when a shot by Kamil Tkaczuk ’19 was deflected by the Amherst goalie.

The game held scoreless until the 10:52 mark when Thomas Lindstrom skillfully drove the puck past Klein. But Middlebury was not ready to let their season end on that note. Just over five minutes later, Eric Jeremiah ’21 earned his first goal of the season that would bring the teams back even at 1–1 as they headed in for the first intermission.

The Nescac foes entered the second period prepared to nail down the hatches on the defensive side of the ice. With strong defensive plays from both sides, it was tough for either to breach the opposing barriers.

It was not until the 7:45 mark that Jack Fitzgerald forced his way through and tallied a second goal for the Mammoths, putting the Panthers back into a one-goal hole, 2–1.

In the last game of the season, the Panthers would not go down this easily.

Ten minutes later they answered the purple visitors with the support of a noisy arena behind them. Off a power play, Mitch Allen ’20 stepped up to the challenge and found Owen Powers ’20 who powered the puck home to knot the score.

The Panthers went into the third stanza ready to leave it all on the ice, as this would be their last chance to skate in Kenyon until next winter. While the Mammoths toppled Middlebury’s defense — they got 23 shots off compared to the Panther’s four — Klein held his own in the net and sent the game into overtime knotted at 2, where the score would remain.

It was Klein’s last chance to wear blue and white and he concludes his career in the annals of Panther history with a record 2,122 saves in his four years and 730 career stops in this season.

Klein commented on his final appearance in Kenyon Arena.

“Playing my last game as a Panther came with a lot of mixed emotions,” Klein said. “It’s crazy to look back over the past four years and how fast it all went by. We had a lot of ups and downs in my time here, but after my last game I found that only the really good moments stuck with me and that I am very grateful for all of those memories.”

The Panthers finish the 2017–2018 season with a record of 4–17–3, but they look forward to an optimistic future as many of their top players are underclassmen.

Klein left the team with some words of wisdom from his past four years in Vermont.

“I think the best advice is to treat every game like it means everything for your season,” Klein said. “With only 24 games it is incredibly hard to dig yourself out of a hole. We were in a lot of close games this year that we couldn’t find a way to win and I think there is a great group of players returning next year that are going to find a way to take that next step we were missing.”

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Men’s Hockey Closes Out Season with a Draw