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Tiger girls coast past Colonels in hockey action

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team had little trouble with visiting Brattleboro on Friday evening, coasting past the Colonels, 8-0, to improve to 9-3.
The Tigers thus kept pace with the other top teams in Division II, first-place Burr & Burton (10-1-2) and third-place Northfield (10-2-1). The Tigers are ahead of Northfield because they have won more D-I games and earned more quality points, despite losing to the Raiders this winter, as they have to the Bulldogs.
No other D-II team had a winning record after weekend play, and the three contenders will probably jockey for the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds the rest of the way, with a home semifinal game at stake.
“We have eight games left to get back here securely on home ice,” said Co-Coach Tim Howlett.
There are challenges left on the schedule, including Burr & Burton at home on Feb. 12, but Friday’s game was not one of them.
The Tigers did not allow a shot on goalie Baily Ryan until 4:20 was gone in the third period, and Ryan finished with a two-save shutout.
Meanwhile, in the first period the Tigers pelted standout Colonel goalie Alex Fellows — who made 60 saves vs. MUHS in an earlier 4-0 Tiger win at Brattleboro — with 26 shots and scored three times.
Harper Smith got the party started for MUHS at 1:25. Defender Tajah Marsden cleared the puck from the Tiger zone, and Smith picked it up at center ice, split two defenders, and converted the breakaway high into the left corner.
It took a while for the Tigers to score again. Co-Coach Matt Brush noted they had not played for almost two weeks because of exams and a Wednesday game that was called off. The puck movement wasn’t always crisp early on, and some passes were rushed.
“Our last game was 11 days ago. We had exams crammed in there, and a cancellation,” Brush said. “So the timing was off, and the competitive edge. It took a little bit to get it back.”
But the Tigers started to heat up as the period wore on. Freshman Julia Carone’s forechecking paid off at 9:42. She picked up the puck in the left wing corner, skated out past a couple Colonels, and stuffed the puck home.
At 10:50, Carone, from behind the net, set up a Monroe Cromis one-timer that beat Fellows inside the near post. That 3-0 score stood after one as Fellows made 23 of her 31 saves in the first period.
The Tigers picked up play in the second with three goals in the first 5:11, after which the Brattleboro coaches decided Fellows had enough abuse.
About a minute in, Sara Boe, stationed in the left-wing circle, rattled a shot home of of the left post, finishing off passes from Alli White and Molly Wetmore.
At 3:36, Angela Carone made a strong rush. Fellows stopped her shot and Heather Selleck’s rebound bid, but Mikayla Humiston banged home the second rebound.
At 5:11, Boe won a faceoff in the right-wing circle back to Rachel Howlett, and her screened shot beat Fellows to the far side.
Coach Howlett said he was pleased with the execution of the game plan.
“Our main objective tonight was to get a lot of movement, traffic in front. We needed to get that goalie moving and find a way to get it by her,” Howlett said. “We accomplished our mission with a victory, but we also took care of a lot of those little details we’ve been working on.”
When the Colonels took out their starting goalie, the Tiger coaches, in Brush’s words, “instituted some passing rules” to be fair to the Colonels and to work on their puck movement. They also gave all the Tigers plenty of ice time.
“When they substituted their goalie, they were kind of tipping their hat a little bit, so we felt we needed to reply in kind and show some sportsmanship and get everybody involved in the game,” Brush said.
The Tigers added one more goal in the second, a Marsden shot from the left point set up Angela Carone, and one more in the third, when White netted her own rebound on a play set up by Cromis and Smith. The Tigers thus had eight scorers for eight goals, remarkably none from high-scoring senior captain Timi Carone.
“They were finding each other and there were things I hadn’t seen before in game situations, the tape-to-tape passes,” Howlett said. “They really looked very good.”
Afterward, the coaches talked about Burr & Burton and Northfield.
“On any given night I think the three of us can beat each other,” Brush said. “I think we just have to show up.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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