Tiger girls spring back with three hockey victories

MIDDLEBURY — Back on Dec. 19 and 22, the Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team stumbled with a pair of back-to-back one-sided road losses, scoring just twice. Those setbacks left a team that reached the Division I final this past winter with a 3-2-1 record.
That was then. This is now: Last week, the Tigers swept three visiting D-I rivals, including one of the teams that had defeated them, collectively outscoring them by 17-6.
In the process the Tigers moved to 7-2-1 and into second place in the league heading into a Tuesday home clash with first-place Essex (6-1). They already own an earlier 5-1 win over fourth-place Rutland, which lost to Essex, 3-2, this weekend, and knocked off third-place and previously undefeated Spaulding last week, 5-2.
Junior tri-captain Julia Carone, who helped spark MUHS with five goals and four assists in the three games, said the Tigers are looking forward to the Essex game, which will be a rematch of the 2015 D-I final, won by the Hornets.
“We’re definitely working hard,” Carone said. “We’re definitely trying to step it up this season. We know we can play and beat anyone. We just have to put our heart into it. It’s not just the Xs and Os.”
Coach Matt Brush, who leads the team along with Tim Howlett and Derek Bartlett, said those Xs and Os have helped the Tigers develop a more balanced and dangerous attack.
The coaches juggled their lineup and substitution tactics last week. The team uses two forward and three backs, and started substituting one of the backs along with the forwards in what Brush said has been a successful attempt to develop more offensive chemistry.
Carone, a back, comes on the ice with Andi Boe and tri-captain Monroe Cromis, while tri-captain Lauren Bartlett, a back, hops over the boards with forwards Helen Anderson and Tulley Hescock.
On defense, Tajah Marsden, the other senior, typically pairs with Satchel McLaughlin, and Abby Gleason works with Molly Wetmore, with Raven Payne spelling them.
The approach, combined with team harmony and effort, is paying off, Brush said.
“We’ve made a few adjustments on how we’re doing business, and it’s resulted in a lot better team play. We’ve scored now 17 goals in the last three games, and most of them are one- or two-assist goals,” Brush said. “It’s a good indication things are going well when we have multiple-assist goals. And the energy is high. We’re playing as a team. The chemistry is good.”
Carone said the Tigers have made one other adjustment.
“We’re a team that likes to pass, and we’re very unselfish. But we’ve really focused on shooting and getting the rebounds,” Carone said. “Someone has to finish it. So I think all of us are taking that role. We really want to be that person to score the goals.”
Wednesday brought the first round of the Tigers’ Fletcher “Buster” Brush Holiday Classic Hockey Tournament and a date with Spaulding, at that point undefeated. The Tigers scored the game’s final four goals in their 5-2 win; outshot the Tide, 65-16; and Boe recorded a hat trick.
  MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School sophomore Andrea Boe tries to slide the puck past South Burlington goalie Erin Church Saturday night in Middlebury. Boe had one goal in the Tigers’ 5-0 win.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Boe gave the Tigers the lead in the first period, with assists from Carone and Cromis. Spaulding took a brief lead in the second on strikes by Taylor Colburn and Jessica Scott, but Cromis and Boe goals, both assisted by Carone, put the Tigers back on top after two periods.
Boe, from Cromis, and Anderson, from Hescock, padded the Tigers’ lead in the third period. Tiger goalie Rowan Hendy made 14 saves.
On Thursday, the Tigers avenged a 3-0 road loss with a 7-4 win over Northfield. The Tigers scored six times in the third period, including two by Carone, to nail down the win.
Carone finished with three goals and an assist, Anderson scored twice, Boe chipped in a goal and three assists, and Cromis added a goal and an assist. Hendy stopped 15 shots, and Northfield’s Analiese Morvan made 21 saves.
Rutland (6-3) also posted wins over Northfield (which dropped to 6-4) and Spaulding (now 5-2) in the tournament.
 On Saturday the Tigers shut out visiting South Burlington, 5-0, dropping the Rebels to 3-5. Even though the Tigers led ice after the first period by just 1-0, it was clear SB was in for a long night — the shots favored MUHS by 19-1 at that point.
Early on, SB goalie Erin Church (39 saves) denied Bartlett, Hescock and Boe, but she could not stop Boe at 8:39 on a beautiful setup by McLaughlin. McLaughlin picked up a puck at mid-ice, skated in, circled the net and found Boe alone back off the left post for a one-timer.
The Tiger shot margin dipped to 12-5 in the second period, but the lead increased to 3-0. Carone won a puck in the left-wing corner, skated out and stuffed it home short side at 4:18. At 8:46 with the teams skating four-on-four, Gleason tucked home the rebound of a Bartlett shot from the center point, with Anderson also assisting.
Church stopped the Tigers’ Polly Heminway and Hescock from the slot, and Tiger goalie Katie Billings (eight saves) smothered a screened bid from Rebel Kate Hall early on.
At 14:04 of the third, Carone scored on the power play to make it 4-0, roofing Boe’s crisp cross-crease pass. At 11:51, a cutting Cromis one-timed another Boe feed home. Billings stopped Katie Young’s spinning shorthand bid with four minutes to go and kicked away Hall’s last-minute shot to preserve her shutout.
Brush said the big week was critical for the Tigers, who had played six of their first seven games on the road, to establish themselves. 
 “It’s monumental,” Brush said. “We got a little bit of rhythm here on our homestand, and hopefully we can continue that on Tuesday against Essex.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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