Pather men tie one, lose one in tough home hockey contests
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s hockey team managed just a tie in two home NESCAC games this past weekend, but outshot and largely outplayed their league rivals. The Panthers dropped to 4-4-4, with their league record of 3-1-4 good for fourth place.
Middlebury on Sunday lost in overtime to Trinity, 3-2, despite outshooting the Bantams, 36-23. Trinity (8-3-1, 4-2 NESCAC) was ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division III before a 3-2 loss at Williams on Saturday.
On Saturday, the Panthers saw a 2-0 third-period lead slip away in a 3-3 tie with Wesleyan (0-7-5, 0-2-4 NESCAC). Middlebury outshot the Cardinals, 33-24.
But despite not picking up wins on home ice, Coach Neil Sinclair said the Panthers “are doing a lot of things really well,” and it is only a matter of time before their effort is rewarded.
“It’s a process. They trust the process. They’ve been working hard. They’ve been giving it their all,” Sinclair said. “And eventually you work hard enough, you tip it, and things start going your way. That’s what we keep talking to them about.”
On Sunday vs. Trinity, the Panthers took the lead 2:31 into the game on a power play. Mike Najjar finished a crisp passing play from just off the left post, one-timing a Ronald Fishman pass across the goalmouth after Fishman had taken a cross-ice pass from Evan Neugold.
Five minutes later, Bantam goalie Alex Morin stuffed a Vincent Gisonti breakaway. A minute after that, the Bantams capitalized on their only good chance of the period. Ben Hjalmarsson dug the puck out of a scramble and backhanded it in at 7:47. The Panthers regained the lead at 13:48 on freshman Kamil Tkaczuk’s first career goal. Brendan McGovern broke up a clear at the blue line and set up Tkaczuk in the right circle, and his hard shot broke through Morin’s glove.
The Panthers outshot Trinity, 12-6, in the first period, but the Bantams earned an 11-8 edge in the second and made it 2-2 at 12:51, when Ethan Holdaway won the puck off the right post and roofed it home, a play that followed one of the many Bantam faceoff wins. Middlebury had two ineffective power plays in the period, and their best chance came on Sunho Park’s shorthanded breakaway, but Morin denied the bid.
Then the Panthers dominated the third period with a 16-4 edge in shots, but Morin stopped good bids by Jake Charles, Zach Haggerty, Spencer Cage, Neugold and McGovern.
Then the Panthers were whistled for a penalty with 20 seconds left in regulation. Early in overtime they had two shorthanded rushes. The Bantams countered the second rush with a three-on-two break, and Sean Orlando broke in on Panther goalie Stephen Klein (20 saves) and beat him with a backhand move to end the game.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Sinclair said. “They controlled the play and we had chances. The puck just didn’t bounce our way.”
Versus Wesleyan, Middlebury took a 1-0 lead at 5:26 into the game when Matt Doherty’s blast from the point beat Wesleyan goalie Dawson Sprigings (30 saves). The Panthers held that 1-0 lead after one period.
In the scoreless second, Middlebury’s Mark Lyman and Wesleyan’s Luke Babcock both hit posts.
Middlebury went on top 2-0 at 2:10 of the third period, when Najjar netted a Neugold rebound.
Wesleyan answered a minute later, when Chad Malinowski knocked home a pass across the slot, and then tied the game at 9:09. Panther goalie Liam Moorfield-Yee (21 saves) gloved James Kline’s bid, but the puck popped loose and trickled in.
At 10:00, Neugold batted home a Gisonti rebound out of the air to make it 3-2. Wesleyan answered 1:33 later, when Dominic Oliver picked up the puck behind the net, stepped out front and stuffed it home. The Panthers outshot the Cardinals, 13-6, in the third period. Neither team created a great chance in overtime.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].