Middlebury College men’s hoceky shuts down Colby, ties Bowdoin

MIDDLEBURY — The Neil Sinclair coaching era began for the Middlebury College men’s hockey team with a solid weekend at Chip Kenyon Arena against two NESCAC foes, a 4-0 win over Colby on Saturday and a 4-4 tie vs. Bowdoin on Sunday.
Still, the Panthers came close to a sweep of their league foes, taking a 4-1 first-period lead on Sunday before Bowdoin worked its way back.
Sinclair, the former Panther all-American named to replace longtime head coach Bill Beaney, would have liked the four points in the NESCAC standings that would have come with two wins. And no coach is happy to see his team surrender a lead.
But after seeing his team score eight goals in two games and show plenty of strong skating, tape-to-tape passes and hustle, Sinclair was willing to look at the big picture after the Bowdoin game.  
“In terms of our opening weekend, we got three points in the NESCAC, which is vitally important,” he said. “Sure, we would have liked to have kept it (the lead), but I think the kids learned a lot today, and we’ll use that as motivation.”
Sinclair acknowledged the Panthers might have drifted somewhat after they pounced on Bowdoin early, but he also noted they hung in and gave as good as they got once they faced adversity.
“We did some really nice things, moved the puck well, and had some great scoring opportunities,” Sinclair said. “We’ve just been focusing on habits, and I think in the second and third (periods) we just got a little bit away from those habits. The nice thing was they dialed back in and played tough.”
The Panthers ruled Sunday’s first period and took a 1-0 lead 4:12 into the game. Brendan McGovern broke in on the right side, skated between the circles and saw his screened shot beat starting Bowdoin goalie Peter Cronin.
Bowdoin (0-1-1) tied the game at 9:56. Panther goalie Stephen Klein (29 saves) knocked Austin Ricci’s shot behind the net. Ricci followed the play and threw the puck out front, and Polar Bear Kendall Culbertson poked it home.
The Panthers regained the lead at 13:20, when Zach Haggerty one-timed the puck to the top left corner on a Brendan Quast feed from the left side. At 16:18, Vincent Gisonti made it 3-1 when he one-timed a shot from the slot after taking a Travis Stephens pass from behind the net. Just 1:33 later, Mike Najjar shot from the right, and the rebound bounced right to McGovern on the doorstep for a bang-bang conversion.
Cronin ended the period and his day with 10 saves. Nathan Collanino relieved him and saved all 21 shots he faced.
Bowdoin competed better in the second period and cut the lead to 4-2 at 16:37, when Matt Sullivan stole the puck on the left-wing boards, beat a defender, skated in alone and wristed the puck home.
Bowdoin made it 4-3 seven seconds into the third. Bowdoin won the face-off, Spencer Antunez picked up the puck and drove to goal. Klein stopped his first shot, but Antunez chipped in the rebound.
The Panthers killed off penalties resulting from a mid-period scuffle, with Terrence Goguen, Paul Falvey, Quast and Ronald Fishman doing good work, but the Polar Bears tied the game at 11:15, when Matt Rubinoff one-timed a pass into the slot.
In overtime, Klein made a close-range blocker save on Todesco and then held his ground during a scramble in the crease before the play was blown dead at 0.7.
In Saturday’s 4-0 win, Klein worked a 28-save shutout. Middlebury took a 1-0 lead 14:41 into the first period when Evan Neugold won a faceoff to Goguen at the top of the right circle, and Goguen wristed the puck home.
The Panthers made it 2-0 in the second session with a shorthanded goal. Colby goaltender Emerson Verrier (35 saves) tried to sweep the puck from behind his own net, but Gisonti snatched it and whipped in a wraparound.
In the third period, Neugold picked up two more assists on goals by Jake Charles and Spencer Cage.
Considering the entire weekend and what he has seen of his team’s preparation for the season, Sinclair said he is pleased.
“I’m very happy with where they are, the energy and the compete level,” he said. “They’ve been working hard in practice every day, and they’ve been giving a really good effort.”
PANTHER GOALTENDER STEPHEN Klein lines up a Colby shot on net on his way to a 28-save shutout in the Middlebury College home opener Saturday at Kenyon Arena.
Photo Credit: Will Costello/willcimages.com

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