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MUHS boys iced by Stowe in D-II final

BURLINGTON — On Thursday, the Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team lost to a Division II team for only the second time this winter.
But this time that setback came at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse in the D-II final.
No. 2 Stowe improved to 18-4-1 by rallying for a 2-1 victory over the 17-6 Tigers, in the process avenging the Raiders’ 3-2 loss to the Tigers on Jan. 31 and their 2-1 loss to MUHS in the 2011 D-II title game.
Thursday’s loss was also only the second for the Tigers since Dec. 28, when they fell to 2-4 with a setback to visiting Northeast Clinton.
Since then they had won 15 of 16 games to earn the top D-II seed, an effort that Coach Derek Bartlett reminded them of after Thursday’s disappointment.
“I told the guys this is just a small glimpse of that journey that you started back in the middle of November. And to have the No. 1 seed in the state tournament says a lot about just the way they committed themselves and the way they played and the way they just worked hard,” Bartlett said. “Obviously to lose the last game of the season, yeah, it stings. But I asked the boys, when you reflect on the chemistry you created and the bonds you made, I hope you remember those more than wins and losses.”
That 2-4 start was in part driven by a tough schedule. But Bartlett said the Tigers were also taking too many penalties and had not yet developed the confidence and discipline to compete against top teams.
MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School sophomore Tyler Crowningshield maneuvers around a Stowe defender during last Thursday’s Division II state championship game in Burlington. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Those elements began to come together during five straight wins that followed the Dec. 28 loss, but that success came against weaker teams. Bartlett said the Tigers really came together in a Jan. 29 game against a decent Milton squad in which they fell behind, 2-0, early in the second period. Two days later they defeated then first-place Stowe.
 “We went down 2-0 in the second period, and maybe about two minutes later we tied it back up,” Bartlett said. “And it seemed from that moment the switch was flipped, and the guys said, ‘You know what, we can be the real deal if we want to be.’”
But it was Stowe’s switch that was flipped in Thursday’s first period. The Raiders outshot the Tigers, 9-3, and goalie Sawyer Ryan (19 saves) had to be sharp. He blocked Raider standout Chad Haggerty from in close in the first minute, and flashed his right pad to stop Austin St. Onge a minute later.
Four minutes in, the Raiders went on a power play. Justin Stone knocked a rebound away from an empty net after Ryan stopped a drive, and Andrew Gleason made two defensive plays before Jordan Stearns broke up the final threat. Overall, defenders Gleason, Stearns, Nathan Lalonde and James Ploof played well; the Tigers blocked 13 shots, five by Lalonde.
Nine minutes in, the Tigers nearly broke on top. Rio McCarty dug the puck out of the right-wing corner and set up Colton Leno off the left post, but Raider goalie Wyatt Galfetti got enough of the puck to keep it out of the net, and a Stowe defender cleared it off the goal line.
Late in the period, Ryan stopped Phil McDermott from the high slot and McDermott’s follow of the rebound.
“Give Stowe a lot of credit, in that first period they came out flying,” Bartlett said.
In the second period each team scored once, and the Raiders earned a 10-8 shots edge. Ryan denied a Haggerty backhand early, but Stone, Kevin Galenkamp, Devin Dwire and Stearns responded with chances for the Tigers. Galfetti gloved a Keenan Bartlett bid from the left-wing circle at 3:30, Leno had a chance out front but couldn’t control a feed, and Galfetti stopped Dwire from the left side.
Stowe began to pressure, but the Tigers countered with their goal at 9:10. Stearns banked the puck out from deep in the left corner. The puck rode the dasher center ice before dropping for Nick Audet outside the Stowe blue line, allowing him to corral it at full stride. Audet then beat Galfetti with a high shot from near the right-wing dot.
The Tigers soon afterward dodged a bullet when Haggerty and Chris Cinque broke in two-on-one and Cinque backhanded the puck just wide after taking a feed from Haggerty.
But Haggerty equalized at 12:06, taking a feed from St. Onge in the right-wing circle and sending a screened shot past Ryan into the far side.
The Tigers had a power play early in the third but, despite chances for Stone and Dwire, couldn’t convert. But they seemed to be finding their legs and creating more pressure — they outshot Stowe in the third, 6-5 — when disaster struck at 8:04.
Haggerty won a faceoff in the left-wing circle, pushed the puck forward and stepped around a Tiger. His shot from the bottom of the circle snuck through Ryan, and Stowe had the lead.
 Down the stretch, a Bartlett feed for Tyler Crowningshield didn’t quite connect, and a defender deflected a McCarty bid wide. The Tigers pulled Ryan with a minute to go, and Stearns appeared to have a good look from 35 feet with 30 seconds left. But Cinque dove to block the shot and then iced the puck, and the Tigers’ title hopes went with it down the length of the ice.
Bartlett said his team might have been a bit overwhelmed by “the moment of a state championship game” in the early going.
“I think there were a lot of nerves,” he said.
But overall Bartlett said the Tigers had a winter to be proud of.
“They knew where they wanted to get at the end of the season,” he said. “They got to this game, and it was just unfortunate they couldn’t pull it off.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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