MIDDLEBURY — Friday night’s anticipated match-up between the Middlebury College men’s hockey team and longtime rival Plattsburgh in the end turned out to be a mismatch.
Although the shot total at Kenyon Arena favored the visiting Cardinals by only 27-25, the Cardinals generated by far the better chances in dealing the Panthers their worst setback since 1993, a 7-0 loss. The Panthers dropped to 6-5-2, while Plattsburgh, ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division III, improved to 11-2-3.
Both teams came out with high energy in the first period, but the Cardinals took the lead on a power-play goal at 15:40, when Jared Docking tipped home Paul Puglisi’s shot from the center point.
The Panthers’ Martin Drolet and George Ordway had chances as the period wore down, but Middlebury seemed to lose focus in the final minute. Cardinal Patrick Jobb forced a turnover at center ice and sent Alex Jensen into the Panther zone alone on goalie John Yanchek, and Jensen converted a slick move high into the right side of the net at 19:16 to make it 2-0 after one period.
The Panthers started strong in the second period and earned more territory than the Cardinals, and drew a Plattsburgh penalty at 7:38. They failed to generate any real threats during the man advantage, however, and as the power play wore down Cardinal Alex Brenton stole the puck at the Panther blue line, bolted past two defenders and converted another breakaway with a second left on the penalty.
That shorthanded strike reversed whatever momentum the Panthers had gained, and according to Middlebury coach Bill Beaney was a symptom of their erratic play since starting the season 4-1-1, including a 0-0 tie with the Cardinals at the Great Northern Shootout. Simply put, Beaney does not believe the Panthers are working to their potential.
“We’ve been inconsistent all season long,” Beaney said. “They’ve got to come out and start working hard in practice and paying attention to detail and working to get better. It’s the same as it is in any sport at any level. You get out of it what you put into it. And we just haven’t been very good lately.”
The Cardinals reasserted themselves, once again blocking shots, clogging passing lanes and winning most of the puck battles along the boards.
Shortly after that shorthanded strike, at 11:43, Plattsburgh went on a power play and quickly converted: Jensen, alone out front, rapped in a one-timer on a feed from Preston Kaye at 12:08.
At that point, Beaney replaced Yanchek (14 saves) — freshmen Dan Fullam (two goals against, five saves in 15:42) and Mike Peters (one goal and one save in 9:42) made their collegiate debuts.
Beaney said he believed Yanchek had seen enough point-blank rubber, and he patted his senior goalie on the helmet after a chat on the bench.
“John’s been good for us all year. I don’t blame him for this whatsoever,” Beaney said.
Plattsburgh made it 5-0 on its next shot, a tip in by Kyle Taylor at 15:18, and the period ended with that score standing.
Kyle Kudroch and Ryan Farnan added third period goals to make it a 7-0 final. The Panthers had good chances to break the shutout: Tom Cantwell hit the crossbar in the third minute; Cardinal goalie Mathieu Cadieux (25 saves) stopped a Brett Brazier tip shortly after than; Brazier backhanded a rebound wide in the fourth minute, as did Michael Griffin in the 13th minute; Griffin shot high from the left side in the 16th minute; and Middlebury failed to capitalize on two power plays.
Beaney credited the Cardinals for the defensive work all over the ice as well as their ability to create dangerous chances.
“They’re a good hockey team. They’ve improved a lot, and my hat’s off to them,”’ Beaney said. “They’ve got an opportunity to have a great year ... They’re solid from goaltending right straight out.”
And he hopes his team will work to improve and show better results than Friday’s.
“Bottom line, we didn’t get out and compete the way we’re capable of, and it’s unfortunate,” Beaney said. “We’ve been inconsistent all year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.