MIDDLEBURY — It was almost a storybook ending for the Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team on Friday night.
Down 3-0 against the Brattleboro Colonels going into the third period, the Tigers hit for four goals in the first five minutes to take the lead. Ultimately, however, MUHS couldn’t hang on, and Brattleboro came out on top, 6-4, in a Division II clash.
It was game largely dominated by the short-staffed Tigers (6-9-2), who ran only two lines but managed to keep the puck in the Brattleboro zone most of the night and outshoot the Colonels by a wide margin.
The game opened with Brattleboro (12-6) repeatedly taking advantage of defensive lapses and an off night for the usually solid Nick Bruch in the MUHS goal, scoring three goals in the first half of the first period.
Brattleboro forward Jamie Martell struck first, just two and half minutes into the game, on a 2-on-1 rush, assisted by senior forward Matt Hudon.
Three minutes later, Colonel senior Will Inman hit from close range, unassisted. And just two minutes after that, Brattleboro seemed like it was on the way to a sure victory as Hudon converted a nice backhand shot over Bruch, whose night in goal ended after that score.
With Craig Camara coming in for Bruch and the Tiger skaters continuing the pressure in Colonel zone — in large measure thanks to some tenacious play by freshman Sawyer Hescock and sophomore Colin Babcock — the Tigers held off any more Brattleboro threats throughout rest of the period.
It was the same during the second as the Tigers created good chances, but couldn’t get the puck past the Colonel defense and goalie Kyle Franklin.
Anyone who thought the game was over as the Tigers opened the third period with a three-goal deficit was seriously mistaken. The constant Tiger pressure in Brattleboro zone paid off less than a minute after the puck dropped: Middlebury defenseman Steel White scooped a nice assist from forward Chris Hickley and put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
Four minutes later, Tiger defender Andrew Myhre skated from behind the Colonel goal line to the right-wing face-off circle, set up and snuck a high wrist shot over Franklin’s left shoulder.
MUHS gave Brattleboro no time to regroup, as 10 seconds later Hescock popped in a wrister from in front of the Colonel goal to make it 3-3.
It was Hescock again who did the heavy lifting just 20 seconds after that. He carried the puck from the Tiger end to the Brattleboro zone before setting up a well-positioned Ben Doria for the go-ahead goal.
That proved to be the end of the night for the Colonel goalie, as senior Mark Miller came in for Franklin for the final 10 minutes. Despite continued aggressive play from the Tigers, Miller held fast and Brattleboro’s Hudon scored the next three of his four goals for the night.
With six minutes to go, Hudon came in alone and swept in front of Camara, who made his move early on the play, allowing Hudon to lift the puck right in. A minute later, he picked off a pass and had the hat trick. Hudon wrapped up the scoring with an empty-netter as the game came to a close.
During his two and half periods of play, Franklin made 30 saves from Brattleboro, while Camara turned back six shots.
Friday night’s loss followed an unsuccessful effort away against Mount Mansfield on Wednesday, 6-1. Mount Mansfield (10-6-1) netted the first six goals of the game before Babcock put the Tigers on the board.
Brent Adair and Shawn Haskins each scored two goals and handed out two assists for the Cougars (10-6-1). Clay Benson added a goal and Erich Schwer scored and notched three assists. Marty DiVenuti made 19 saves, and Bruch stopped 20.