Lack of scoring punch thwarts MUHS hockey
MIDDLEBURY — As has been the case at times this winter, on Monday the Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team did almost everything well enough to win.
The missing element in the Tigers’ 3-1 setback to visiting Northfield was offense. The Tigers outskated the 9-4 Marauders for most of the game and outshot them, 24-18, but couldn’t light the lamp.
Coach Derek Bartlett was left with mixed feelings about his 5-7-1 Tigers. Bartlett is disappointed that the Tigers don’t have more to show for their efforts, but not disappointed with their effort.
“We did outshoot them, and we did carry a lot of the play,” Bartlett said. “I thought (goalie) Nick (Bruch) played well and defensively we played pretty solid. We’ve just got to find a way to put pucks in the net.”
The Tigers had an edge in play and shots (5-3) in a scoreless first period. Each team had a great chance on a shorthanded breakaway, but Bruch held his ground on Marauder Jacob Audet-Ricker, and Northfield’s Bennett Augustoni stopped the Tigers’ Sawyer Hescock.
The Tigers had the best three other chances in the period: Augustoni (23 saves) gloved defenseman Ryan Crowningshield’s power-play shot from the right-wing circle, a play set up by Andrew Myhre; Augustoni used his blocker to deny Stephen Babcock in the slot on a feed from Colin Babcock; and on a late power play Hescock tipped Nick Leach’s wrist shot from the right point just over the bar.
Leach gave the Tigers the lead 55 seconds into the second period, rapping home a loose, bouncing puck from the slot, with an assist going to Hescock.
But Northfield equalized 89 seconds later when the Tigers failed to clear decisively. Billy Whaley won the puck at the right point and fed Patrick Barrett in the right-wing circle. Bruch got a piece of Barrett’s wrister, but couldn’t stop it from going into the far corner.
The Tigers dominated the next seven minutes, and outshot the Marauders in the second period, 10-5. Augustoni blocked a Leach backhander and a Crowningshield slapper from the slot, Hescock fired just wide twice and Augustoni stopped Stephen Babcock from close range. About 10 minutes in, Crowningshield set up Bradford Willis for a slapper in the left-wing circle, and Augustoni got just enough of his blocker on it to deflect the puck off the left post as the Tigers’ frustration continued.
Instead, the Tigers over-committed on a forecheck, and the Marauders ended up with numbers on a counterattack. Alex Green centered from the right to Audet-Ricker out front, and his tip trickled in at 11:38 to make it 2-1, and the period ended with that score.
The Tigers took a late penalty in the second, and early in the third drew another penalty for throwing to the ice a Marauder who was engaged in flagrant interference, and MUHS was two men down. Defenseman Steel White, Hescock and Crowningshield killed that perfectly, but just as the second penalty expired Northfield struck again.
Daegan Goodman ripped a slapper from the left-wing circle that bounced off Bruch’s chest to the left-wing circle, right to the charging Whaley. Whaley one-timed the insurance goal home at 2:49.
The Tigers earned two more power plays, but couldn’t convert. Augustoni denied Crowningshield and Graham Barlow on the first, and stopped a Stephen Babcock rebound bid off a Colin Babcock shot in the second. The Marauders also skated better in the period, and earned a 10-9 edge in shots.
In their 13 games, the young Tigers have scored 36 goals, a misleading total because nine of those came against hapless, winless Mount St. Joseph. In six of their games they have scored just one goal, and undefeated U-32 shut them out last week.
Bartlett said after the game that he and assistant Jim Derosia told the Tigers to keep plugging.
“We said, ‘As coaches, we want to see you rewarded for all the hard work you’re doing. Because you are playing hard and you are playing well. Keep doing those things and hopefully eventually the puck will start going in,’” Bartlett said. “And I think once that happens, it will be contagious. The guys will get a knack for going to goal with the puck.”