MIDDLEBURY — For the first time since 1993, the Middlebury College men’s hockey team stands at 0-2. And those two losses came in Kenyon Arena on Friday and Saturday to Tufts and Connecticut College, respectively, teams against which the Panthers had a collective record of 38-8-2 entering the weekend.
But more puzzling to Middlebury Coach Bill Beaney than the results — Friday’s 3-0 loss to Tufts and Saturday’s 5-3 setback to Conn. College — was the way he said the Panthers played.
After Saturday’s loss, Beaney talked about what he saw as the Panthers’ lack of fire and effort.
“We didn’t move our feet. We didn’t play what people consider Middlebury hockey,” Beaney said. “It’s disappointing. I feel bad for the guys in there. They didn’t want to do that. They’re great young men and they’ll get better. It’s just disappointing they didn’t step up and compete.”
Granted, the Panthers were playing without key forwards Martin Drolet, who was with the Panther men’s soccer team in the NCAA Division III tournament, and Nick Resor, who earned a break after a season on the Middlebury football team.
And the team has just three seniors, and almost a dozen newcomers who could play key roles this winter. But Beaney refused to say inexperience mattered.
“They were all recruited to come here and play. They know what our program is all about.
They should be ready to play,” he said.
After the loss to Tufts, Beaney sat a number of veterans on Saturday.
“We had a group of guys that played with so little enthusiasm that I didn’t think they deserved to play and some other ones did,” Beaney said.
On Friday, although the Panthers had a big edge in puck possession and outshot the Jumbos, 29-15, Beaney was unhappy.
“How many pucks did we win? Any 50-50 puck, we lost 95 percent of them,” he said. “We didn’t play gritty.”
In that game, the Jumbos took advantage of turnovers to score goals early in the second (by Dylan Cooper) and third (by Zach Diaco) periods. Freshman Panther goalie Nick BonDurant (12 saves) could not be blamed for either, and the final goal was an empty-netter. Tufts’ goalie Scott Barchard made 29 saves.
On Saturday afternoon, the Panthers dominated the first period, outshooting the Camels, 16-6. But they could not score even when they skated a man up for the final 4:29 after a major penalty to Connecticut.
Junior captain Charlie Strauss put the only tough shot on Camel goalie Andrew Margolin (32 saves) during that power play, and the Panthers gave the puck away in their own end, forcing freshman goalie Nick Jasset to make one of his 12 saves. Earlier in the period, the Panthers really tested Margolin just twice, on a wraparound by Chaz Svoboda and a short wrister by freshman Louis Belisle.
Penalties plagued the Panthers in the second period — they took nine in the game. The Camels took the lead at 6:53 when they were two men up — Jordan Gray tipped in a Dawson Luke drive. At 8:16, Connecticut made it 2-0 on a shorthanded goal by Sean Curran set up by a Panther miscue.
The Panthers tied the game in the second period. Their first goal of the season came from Michael Griffin from the high slot at 8:55, assisted by John Barr, who picked off a Camel pass.
At 16:37, Tucker Donahoe and Charles Nerbak combined to make it 2-2. Donahoe sent Jak Knelman into the Camel zone with a two-line pass, and Knelman carried to the bottom of the left-wing circle. Nerbak returned the puck to Donahoe at the top of the circle, and Donahoe beat Margolin to the near side.
The Panthers took another penalty 24 seconds into the third. It proved costly at 1:11, when Mike Sinsignalli converted a rebound of a nice Jasset stop to give the Camels the lead. At 2:42 Sinsignalli set up Julien Boutet’s breakaway, and it was 4-2.
At 7:45 the Panthers made it 4-3 on the power play. Griffin found the near corner from the right point, with assists from Bryan Curran and Strauss. But at 10:05 the Panthers allowed a two-on-one break, and Sinsignalli picked the near side from the left-wing circle. BonDurant (four stops) then replaced Jasset. One last Panther penalty, this one at 16:50, ended comeback hopes.
The Panthers next face defending NCAA Division III champ Norwich on Friday in the Great Northern Shootout, which will be held in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Beaney no doubt hopes the Panthers, who he said put the effort into preparing for the season, will upset the Cadets instead of him.
“I feel bad for them because I think they worked extremely hard. They worked hard in the fall. The practices were not bad at all,” he said. “It’s a little surprising.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.