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Tiger boys advance in D-II hockey with overtime win

MIDDLEBURY — The third-seeded Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team got the game-winning goal from sophomore Tyler Giorgio 1:18 into double overtime on this past Wednesday night to turn back visiting No. 6 Hartford, 3-2, in a Division II quarterfinal.
The 16-4-2 Tigers, who stretched their unbeaten streak to nine games, earned a semifinal date with No. 2 U-32. They will visit the 18-2-1 Raiders at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Barre B.O.R. Ice Rink. U-32 won the winter’s only meeting between the two teams, also in Barre, 2-1, with the shots even at 20 apiece.
Because No. 8 Burr & Burton upset No. 1 Woodstock last week, the Tigers and Raiders are the top seeds remaining in the tournament. No. 4. Stowe (17-5), the defending champion, will face Burr & Burton (13-9) this Wednesday. The semifinal victors will meet on March 10 at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Arena.
The Tigers are eager to take on the Raiders, who also defeated them in the 2015 quarterfinal round, 2-1.
“They’re a good team. We’ve just got to go up there and do what we do, bury the puck, finish, bury the rebound, and not let them score,” said junior co-captain Andrew Gleason, who set up Giorgio’s game-winner. “On any given night, anyone can win. I’m looking forward to it.”
Coach Derek Bartlett pointed to the even game the teams already played this winter.
“It was a heck of a game. Both teams were up and down, quick transition. It’s just the team that is going to be opportunistic on Tuesday night,” Bartlett said. “It should be a good battle.”
This past Wednesday against Hartford (14-8), the Tigers needed freshman Henry Hodde’s second goal of the game with 2:52 remaining in regulation to force overtime.
That goal, scored shortly after the Tigers killed a five-minute major penalty, was set up by senior Tyler Crowningshield. Crowningshield picked up the puck in the right circle after a Hurricane miscue and fired on Hartford goalie Richie Morrill (26 saves). The puck bounced off his chest back toward the circle, and Hodde whipped it home over Morrill’s shoulder.
With two minutes to go in regulation, Tiger goalie Sawyer Ryan made the biggest of his 19 saves, denying a breakaway by Hartford’s Ben Rouillard after the Tigers mishandled the puck on their own blue line.
The Tigers had the early chances in the first eight-minute overtime, with Morrill stopping Crowningshield and Brett Viens from the slot. Later Ryan denied Nate Lemieux from the left circle and sophomore defender Brian Kiernan came up with a huge blocked shot on a three-on-one Hurricane break.
With a clean sheet of ice for the second, 15-minute overtime, the Tigers wasted little time. Gleason skated past two defenders into the zone down the right side and found space below the circle.
He fired across the goalmouth, and Giorgio, crashing the net, deflected the puck off Morrill and into the far corner to trigger a celebration among the Tigers and the standing-room-only crowd of supporters.
“I saw the ice, and I took it. I knew my teammates were going to be in front of the net, so I had faith in them,” Gleason said. “And Tyler buried it.”
Both Gleason and Bartlett noted it was the Tigers’ young second line that lit the lamp. 
“Our three goals were scored one by a sophomore and two by a freshman,” Gleason said. “Everybody’s contributing to the team.”
Bartlett added the shifts taken by the third line helped keep the Tigers’ legs fresh.
“The second line got it done for us tonight. And I thought the third line, when they got their shifts, it was good energy,” Bartlett said.
Earlier, Hodde gave the Tigers the lead in the game’s first minute, one-timing home a shot from just inside the left circle after Viens knocked the puck loose on the forecheck.
The Tigers controlled the period, but with about 10 minutes gone Hartford cashed in on one of just three shots in the first 15 minutes. Kyle Weeks broke up a clear on the right boards and skated in to beat Ryan with a close-range wrister.
Bartlett credited Hartford’s grit, and a game plan that focused both on shutting down the Tigers’ top forward duo of Crowningshield and Colton Leno and allowing them to move out of their defensive zone with aggressive, rink-wide clearing passes.
“We looked so strong in those first 10, and then Hartford is who they are. They’re not going to lay down,” Bartlett said. “They battled all night as well. It was an incredible game.”
In the first minute of the second period, another session otherwise largely controlled by the Tigers, Hartford took the lead when Nate Lemieux netted the rebound of a Weeks shot. The Tigers outshot Hartford in the period, 10-3, but did not create dangerous chances.
As the third opened, Ryan denied two Hartford bids in the first minute, and in the fourth minute used his blocker to deny a Gavin Shropshire backhand from in close.
Then at 6:03, potential disaster struck for the Tigers: They were assessed a five-minute major for boarding, a penalty some observers felt was too harsh. After some anxious moments, including Ryan’s stop of a Tyler Hamilton tip, the Tigers’ penalty kill took over, and they gained momentum.
“We overcame adversity when we went down, 2-1, and had that five-minute major at the end of the game, killed that and then got a goal,” Gleason said.
Bartlett said at times the Tigers might have been trying to look for “the perfect shot or perfect look” vs. Hartford, but the winning play was what he had in mind — get the puck to the front of the net and crash.   
“I don’t even know how that puck went in, but that’s what we were trying to do all night,” he said. “We did it when it counted.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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