Men’s Hockey: Living Up to the Legacy?

By JENNY LANGERMAN

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
Brett Dineen ’20 focuses on advancing the puck against Hamilton. The Panthers battled the Continentals last season on Feb. 17, 2018.

Last year, the Middlebury men’s hockey team seemed to stumble through their season, falling well short of a winning season with a 4-17-3 record. This year, however, it seems the Panthers are ready to retaliate and to come back proving they’re better than ever.

The 2017-2018 season “was difficult for the team and coaching staff alike,” according to junior captain Owen Powers. “While we were able to make serious strides towards the end of the season we were ultimately a young team that struggled to finish games, to score goals and be the first team to score in games.” 

It seems last season’s difficulties stemmed from a disconnect in the team dynamic. “I think we had some of the right pieces but the culture and work ethic within the team was not fully there,” said senior captain Kamil Tkazcuk. “We had really good players last year but we did not compete the right way.”

Acknowledging these issues, the Panthers knew what to focus on in the offseason to prepare for the new year. 

“We have really worked last spring and this fall to fix our team culture and work ethic both on and off the ice,” Tkazcuk said. “The biggest difference from this year’s squad and last year’s is that everyone is working together towards a similar goal. Last year we worked more individually, this year is all team-oriented, stemming from the change in team culture.”

In addition to improving upon weaknesses, the team was sure to take advantage of and build upon existing strengths, such as team chemistry. Powers explained that “the team chemistry is great. The dynamic in the locker room has been excellent and everyone gets along very well.” 

Tkazcuk agreed, calling this year’s team “one of the closest, if not the closest, teams I have ever been a part of.”

Moreover, the young team which the Panthers struggled to work with last year in turn only serves as a positive this year. “I think some strengths from last year’s team is the core of the team. We lost some important seniors from last season but the core of the team remains intact,” Tkazcuk explained. 

The Panthers already hold a 2-2 record this season, defeating Colby and Plattsburgh but falling to Bowdoin and Norwich, and seem hopeful for what the future holds. 

“I think both games we won, we dominated. Both games that we lost, we beat ourselves with penalties and mental errors; the opposing teams did not beat us,” Tkazcuk said.

With this, Middlebury confidently knows what to expect heading into their upcoming matchups. 

The Panthers even have their sights set on the NESCAC tournament, in which they made their most recent appearance just three years ago during the 2015-2016 season — the last after a spectacular 21-year run. 

Though facing a few hurdles and feeling the heat of this impressive legacy, this year’s squad feels fired up and ready to go, rather than daunted.

“We are finally in a position where we know we can beat anyone,” Powers said.

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