MIDDLEBURY — There’s more than one way to look at the Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team’s Tuesday game against Lake Placid in the final of the Tigers’ Duke Nelson/Wendy Forbes Memorial Hockey Tournament.
In the books it does down as a 4-4 tie that leaves the Tigers with a 3-1-1 record. But the Blue Bombers earned the tournament title at the Memorial Sports Center with a 2-1 win in the shootout that followed a scoreless sudden-death overtime.
The Tigers got a lift when junior defenseman Steel White scored a dramatic goal at the horn to force that extra session, just four seconds after Lake Placid had scored an all-but-certain game-winner.
But the Tigers had also taken a 3-1 lead with 7:17 to go on a sensational goal by freshman Tim Shea. Then they took two penalties and allowed two power-play goals, in between which they surrendered a shorthanded strike to cough up that advantage after carrying the play most of the evening.
MUHS coach Derek Bartlett didn’t deny the evening’s entertainment value and drama, but he would like to see more from his talented, but young, team.
“From a hockey standpoint, it was fun to watch, but to be up, 3-1, with five minutes left in the game, you’ve got to be able to buckle down and finish strong,” Bartlett said. “But once again, penalties killed us. We were in the (penalty) box more than we should have been, and there were key guys in the box that weren’t on the ice that really hurt.”
Specifically, he said he expects 45 minutes of consistency from a team he believes has the potential to be one of the top four in Division II.
“I give the boys credit to not quit with five seconds left,” Bartlett said. “But the thing is we shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. These guys need to play consistently for 15 minutes one period at a time, and these guys are still trying to figure that out. With this group there are expectations, and we’re not quite there yet even though we’re 3-1-1.”
The teams emerged from the first period tied at 1-1. The Tigers controlled early, and took the lead when junior Colin Babcock’s long-range wrist shot deflected past LP goalie Brady Hayes at 5:31. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Crowningshield, who played a strong all-around game, earned an assist.
Two penalties sapped the Tigers’ momentum, and the Bombers cashed in on one of them at 12:17. Starting Tiger goalie Nick Bruch stopped, but could not control, Eddie Kane’s screened shot from the right-wing circle, and Dylan Smith poked it home.
Bruch left with an apparently minor injury after the first period; he stopped seven shots. Max Longchamp finished up in goal and made six saves the rest of the way.
The Tigers controlled the territory in the second period, but mustered few shots and added only one goal, by Trevor Emilo at 2:36. Nick Leach broke up an LP clear at the left point and fed Chris Hickley in the high slot. Hickley relayed to Emilo to the left of the net, and Emilo slid the puck past Hayes and inside the far post. The Tigers killed another penalty late in the period, and it was 2-1 after two.
MUHS came out hard in the third and drew an LP penalty. Shea and Andrew Myhre tested Hayes (15 saves) during the power play, and at the other end defenders Crowningshield, White, Sawyer McLaughlin, Jordan Stearns and Cody Gendreau were protecting Longchamp well.
At 7:43, Myhre sent Shea into the left side of the LP zone, and he blew past two defenders and ripped a high forehand past Hayes to make it 3-1. McLaughlin picked up the second assist on a play that looked like it might lock down a tourney title for the Tigers.
But at 9:46, the Tigers took a penalty. Ten seconds later, after a faceoff win, Kane whipped a backhander home from the slot to make it 3-2.
The Tigers went on a power play at 10:03, but it didn’t pay off. Kane picked up the puck on the blue line, outraced a defender down the left boards, and beat Longchamp short-side at 11:20 to tie the game.
At 14:34, with the Tigers pressing in the LP end, they took one more penalty. The Bombers won the faceoff and peppered Longchamp with shots, on one of which he made a point-blank, sliding pad save. But the Tigers could not clear the rebounds, and Smith netted the go-ahead goal at 14:55, and the Bombers celebrated.
Incredibly, that celebration proved premature. The Tigers won the faceoff and powered down the ice. Babcock tapped the puck forward to White, who blew through the defense and stuffed a backhander past Hayes as the red light came on and the horn sounded at the same time.
After a conference with the goal judge, the referees skated back to the benches, nodding — White’s goal was good.
The Tigers dominated the OT, at least until they took one more penalty with 16 seconds left. But they managed the brief kill, and it was on to the shootout. After the Bombers took the lead, Babcock equalized for MUHS. But Kane got one more home, and LP got the hardware.
Bartlett believes his team will learn its lessons.
“We’re still in the early stages of figuring out chemistry, and who works best with who,” he said. “We haven’t played our best hockey yet by any means.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]