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Tiger girls hockey outshoots, but don’t stem, the Tide

MIDDLEBURY — The young Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team showed on Monday both why the Tigers can be a force to be reckoned with after moving up to Division I, and that they are still learning on the job.
In the first round of the Tigers’ Buster Brush Holiday Classic, they dominated the flow of the game vs. visiting Spaulding (3-2) and outshot the Tide, 35-19.
But they also made a series of positioning and puck management errors that led to many breakaways, three of which speedy Jessica Scott converted on the way to a four-goal night that sparked the Tide to a 6-3 victory.
MUHS (4-2) was set to face Northfield (6-0) on Tuesday in the final game of the tournament. That contest was played after the early deadline for this edition of the Independent.
The Tigers had won four straight coming into Monday, with their only setback being their opener at Northfield, 2-0. Their previous outing was a 7-1 win on Dec. 20 at D-I foe South Burlington, a result that Co-coach Tim Howlett said had been a step forward.
Howlett acknowledged Monday was a hiccup for a team that moved to D-I after winning the D-II title in 2014.
“We’ve been on a progression, games one through five, and it seemed like after our fifth game, South Burlington, we really looked sharper than we were before. The puck movement was good, tape-to-tape passes, finding each other,” Howlett said. “Tonight, I think the pace they (Spaulding) brought, those two explosive girls, 9 (Scott) and 11 (Julia Ormsby, who recorded a goal and an assist), just rattled them, and they ended up throwing pucks into places that were just not safe, and we gave up way too many breakaways.”
But, Howlett said, he also expects the game to be a learning experience that will help the young Tigers adapt to the speed of D-I play.
“We’re still a young team. We’re still trying to figure things out. This was a good taste of what that D-I level is like,” Howlett said. “Spaulding is always a perennial powerhouse in D-I. I think we’ll be a little bit mentally more prepared tomorrow night.”
The Tigers started slowly on Monday, and goalie Baily Ryan made two point-blank saves before Ormsby gave the Tide the lead at 3:42 with a shot from just inside the right-wing circle.
Then MUHS took charge. In the next three minutes, Tide goalie Morgan Gosselin (32 saves) kept coming up big, denying Tully Hescock, Emma Best, Angela Carone (twice), and Julia Carone, while getting help from the crossbar on a Best bid from the right-wing circle.
Spaulding then tested Ryan twice more from close range. Ryan stoned Ormsby after she stole the puck deep in the Tiger zone and then Lauryn Bedard and Ormsby from the slot as the Tide created good chances.
The best defense the Tigers played came on a power play late in the period, during which they held Spaulding without a shot. As the period ended, Gosselin came up big on Monroe Cromis, and a defender blocked Best’s rebound bid.
The Tigers broke through at 2:03 of the second when Angela Carone carried in from center ice, beat a defender, and then backhanded home her own rebound after Gosselin stopped her initial bid.
Gosselin and Ryan then both protected the tie with close-range stops, Gosselin on Best and on Andi Boe (twice), and Ryan on a Jordyn Binaghi breakaway.
But Scott was not to be denied on another breakaway, ripping a forehand home at 5:47, after eluding the defense. After that, the Tigers again showed their defensive potential by not allowing a shot on a power play, but they still could not dent Gosselin, who stopped Boe and Angela Carone, both of whom were alone in the slot.
Shortly after the second save, Scott made it 3-1 with a feed from Bedard at 11:30. Ryan roamed far out of her net to stop another breakaway 20 seconds later, and a minute after that denied an Ormsby breakaway. But Ryan could not stop yet another breakaway, this one by Scott, at 13:31, and the Tiger coaches called for time with the score 4-1.
They elected to replace Ryan with Rowan Hendy then, but Howlett made it clear they did not blame their three-year starting senior goalie — who made a dozen saves, almost all challenging — for the team’s defensive lapses. 
“Changing goalies was not a reflection of her play, per se, but we were looking for a spark there,” Howlett said. “And the team knows that. We explained that to them later.”
For a while, it looked like the Tigers had gained that spark — 1:09 into the third period, Boe carried down the left side and centered to Anderson. Gosselin stopped the first shot, but Anderson chipped home the rebound to make it 4-2.
At 2:56, a strong Best rush forced a penalty, and the Tigers pelted Gosselin, who denied Julia Carone twice from point-blank on a rebound of an Anderson shot, stopped Anderson on a rebound of a Best shot, and stopped Tajah Marsden’s bid from the left point.
Finally, the Tiger pressure paid off later in the period, when Best netted the rebound of an Alli White shot on a play set up by Harper Smith. It was 4-3 with 4:19 still to go.
But almost immediately, the Tigers made an ill-advised pass near the Tide blue line. Scott picked it off and skated in for her third breakaway conversion and fourth goal at 11:21. Scott later set up Bedard’s clinching empty-netter.
Howlett said he thought the nine-day layoff probably also slowed the Tigers, and said he believed they would adjust to the speed of play as the season progresses.
“In some of the games we’ve played, we’ve had a second to make a decision, and now it’s a nanosecond,” Howlett said. “It’s that kind of a process. I’m confident we’ll get there.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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