Changes in lineup, formations help Tiger girls’ hockey defeat Northfield

MIDDLEBURY — On Tuesday night the Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team saw the return of a key player from injury, moved another key player into a new role, deployed a new forechecking system, and, arguably, played with renewed determination.
Those ingredients helped produce what might have been the 3-4 Tigers’ biggest win of the season, 2-1 over visiting Northfield/Montpelier.
The Marauders have a misleading 2-3-2 record: It includes two close losses to undefeated Rice and a 4-2 win over Rutland, which recently defeated the Tigers, 6-1.
MUHS senior Tulley Hescock, whose move from forward to defense helped solidify the Tiger backline and who scored a shorthanded goal, said the Tigers came out with purpose because they knew what the game meant.
“It was super important,” Hescock said. “I think we realized this was a big game for us, and to win was very exciting.”
Her position switch and Tuesday’s return of all-star senior defender Satchel McLaughlin from a preseason injury gave Coach Matt Brush the depth in the back to return the team to its traditional three-back, two-forward alignment.
“We went back to a system of hockey that we were familiar with and it gave the kids some confidence,” Brush said. “Getting Satch back certainly helped our depth at the defensive back position, and we were able to do some things we are familiar doing.”
Brush said moving the four-year veteran Hescock to the back to team up with McLaughlin and fellow seniors Abby Gleason and Raven Payne helped the defense in front of freshman goalie Abby Hodsden (19 saves) and the Tigers’ transition out of the back.
“Having Tulley in the back gave us a level of confidence handling the puck we haven’t had the last couple games,” Brush said.
The Tigers’ relentless forechecking also kept the strong-skating Marauders from breaking out of their own end with speed. Hescock said the three-back, two-forward system helped with forechecking: The Tigers sent two forwards in deep, and then one of the backs would join them depending on how the forwards forced play.
“We just switched to a new forecheck, and I think it really worked for us,” Hescock said. 
   TIGER SENIOR TULLY Hescock scored an unassisted goal against Northfield Tuesday night. Middlebury won the game, 2-1.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Both teams launched eight shots in a scoreless first period. Hodsden’s solid positional play kept the Marauders off the board, while Northfield goalie Kaylee Thayer (16 saves) denied the best chance of the first 15 minutes by gloving a Hescock shot from the left circle that was ticketed for the far corner.
The Tigers opened the second on a power play, but Thayer blocked Taylor Moulton’s backhander from off the right post. After the Northfield penalty expired Tiger Meredith Kimble centered to Moulton, but Thayer stopped her again.
A minute later McLaughlin blocked a Marauder shot from the right side, and Hodsden knocked aside Brianna Doty’s rebound bid from the inside edge of the circle.
The Marauders went on a power play nine minutes in, but it didn’t work out as they had hoped. Hescock intercepted a pass from the right corner, skated through the circle and wristed the puck into the upper right corner at 11:18. The Marauders got one look on the power play, but Hodsden stopped Reese Clayton’s bid from the slot.
The Tigers got a lucky bounce early in the third, which opened with Northfield on another power play: Bridget Doney pinged the inside of the right post, and the puck rebounded through the crease and out to the left side.
Both goalies made good saves, Thayer on Audrey Schnoor and Hodsden on Doty, before the Tigers made it 2-0 at 9:10. Georgina Mraz carried into the Northfield zone along the boards, and as a lone defender arrived flipped the puck to Isabella Pistilli heading alone toward the goal. Pistilli skated to her left, and when Thayer moved whipped the puck home between her pads to claim the two-goal lead.
There were anxious moments down the stretch. First, the Tigers were whistled for a penalty at 11:20. During the power play Kallie French hit the post, and Hodsden denied Corrine Bolding and Doty again.
Finally, with 1:24 to play, Doty solved Hodsden. Doty skated past a couple of tiring Tigers and fired a short wrist shot into the upper left corner.
Then the Tigers were whistled for another penalty at 1:08. The Marauders had one more good look, but Hodsden knocked a Nichole Pappas shot from the high slot into the left corner. There, Tiger Polly Heminway won the puck and sent it the length of the ice to seal the victory.
The Tigers have been hamstrung this year by injuries; senior standout Andi Boe is out for the season, and senior all-star Helen Anderson is also hurt, with an uncertain status. Hescock said the Tigers have become determined to overcome adversity.
“We just kind of realized this is not going to be an easy year, and this is our year to prove something,” she said. “We’ve worked on a lot of things, our skating, our speed, our shooting.”
Brush said more challenges lie ahead, including a Saturday game at Rice, but efforts like Tuesday’s will help the Tigers moving forward.
“If you don’t gain confidence from a win like this you’re not going to,” he said. “It was a great time in the locker room afterward, and hopefully we can build on this.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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