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Boys’ hockey wins two, falls to Stowe in tourney

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team picked up two one-side wins this past Wednesday and Friday, but couldn’t hold off Stowe’s late rally in the final of the Tigers’ own Fletcher “Buster” Brush Holiday Classic at the Memorial Sports Center.
In that game Stowe won the tournament title with two goals in the final 1:33 to prevail, 3-2. By doing so the Raiders finally solved Tiger junior goalie Zeke Hooper, who after allowing a goal on the first shot he saw had kept the Tigers in the game with 44 straight saves. MUHS fell to 5-1 with the setback to the 3-1 Raiders.
In the tournament’s first round the Tigers dismissed Lake Placid, 5-0, and on Wednesday they coasted over host Champlain Valley, 6-1.
MIDDLEBURY GOALIE EZEKIEL Hooper corrals the puck during the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to Stowe on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James
But Coach Derek Bartlett said games like those apparently did not prepare his team to face Stowe, which had defeated Brookline, Mass., 5-4, in Friday’s first round. With the exception of the first few minutes of the second period the strong-skating Raiders controlled play throughout and overall launched more than a shot a minute — they outshot the Tigers, 47-11.
“We were not ready for the speed. To this point we had played teams where we had time and space to make decisions, make good hockey plays,” Bartlett said. “And tonight we faced a team that took away that time and space, and we couldn’t respond in a productive manner, an effective manner.”
Certainly, he said, things had gone well in the Tigers’ five wins before Saturday.
HALE HESCOCK TALLIES a Tiger goal to make the score 1-1 in the second period against Stowe on Saturday, but the Tigers lost 3-2.
Independent photo/Steve James
“We’re winning the games we should win,” Bartlett said. “Up until this point we’ve been making good hockey plays, good decisions. We’ve been getting contributions from multiple lines. A lot of that has to do with who we’ve been playing, who our opponents are. When we’ve had time and space we’ve made good hockey plays, and we’ve been putting in five, six goals a game.”
Stowe posed a tougher challenge, starting with a first period in which the Raiders outshot the Tigers, 19-1, and scored 10 seconds after the opening faceoff: Max Carr backhanded home a Jace Boerger feed from point-blank range. 
“Credit to them. They play hard,” Bartlett said. “They outraced us to every puck. They won every battle on the boards.”
Hooper held the fort for almost the entire game. Five minutes in he dove headfirst to his right to deny Carr at the right post. Mid-period Hooper stopped Atticus Eiden from close range three times, and at 3:14 he smothered an Eiden one-timer. Hooper got some defensive help from juniors Kamrin Bartlett, a co-captain, and Robbie Bicknell and sophomores Tucker Stearns and Daniel Hodsden, but there was little question who was the Tigers’ star of the night.
MIDDLEBURY’S AARON LAROCQUE watches teammate Ryan Nadeau’s shot beat the Stowe goalie to put the Tigers ahead 2-1 in the second period on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James
“Obviously Zeke was a big factor,” Bartlett said. “He kept us in the game.”
The Tigers came out for the second period with a little life in their step, with senior co-captain and forward Kolby Farnsworth setting an early tone forechecking. The Tigers’ most effective forward pairing of the night, senior Cooper O’Brien and junior Hale Hescock also went to work.
In the first minute they broke in two-on-one, but O’Brien lofted his shot over the crossbar. But at 1:16 Hescock found the net. The Tigers broke up a Stowe rush and O’Brien carried out down the right side. O’Brien sent the puck forward to Hescock at the Raider blue line, and he went around one defender and from near the right faceoff dot found the far corner with a low shot.
Forty seconds later the Tigers had the lead. Junior Aaron Larocque won the puck deep and fed classmate Ryan Nadeau about 10 feet off the right post, and Nadeau slid a shot just inside the post at 1:56.
TIGER JUNIOR DEVON Kearns collides with a Stowe forward in front of the Tigers’ bench in the 3-2 loss on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James
The second period was more even than the first, but two Tiger penalties, one drawn by Carr as Hooper was stopping his breakaway bid, stalled their momentum despite strong penalty killing. The Tigers also earned a late power play, but their best bid, a shot by freshman Joey Niemo, deflected wide off a defender.
Shots were fewer for Stowe in the third, at 11, and it looked like the Tigers could hang on. Bartlett made several good defensive plays, and at the other end in the third minute Nadeau split the defense and forced Raider goalie Connor McWeeney (nine saves) to make a stop. Midway in the period McWeeney sticked aside junior Devon Kearns’ spinning backhander from the slot.
Then Stowe struck. Carr entered the MUHS end with a head of steam and beat two defenders and then Hooper with a strong move to tie the game at 13:27. Then with just 20 seconds to go Boerger one-timed a behind-the-net pass from Alex Tilgner past a screened Hooper, and Stowe soon afterward celebrated its title. Carr picked up the second assist on the game-winner; it was the 100th point of the senior’s career.
Bartlett said the Tigers would work on preparing to play at the faster pace at their upcoming games by focusing in practice on small-space games that will require them to think and react quickly.
“With the tempo at practice, I just think it’s hit the reset button, small-area games as far as time and space and making it up-tempo as far as what we want to bring to practices with the players,” he said.
 
HALE HESCOCK TAKES a knee to block a shot in front of Kam Bartlett, left, goalie Ezekiel Hooper and Tucker Stearns in the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to Stowe on Saturday.
 
Independent photo/Steve James
FRIDAY GAME
In Friday’s tournament opener the Tigers coasted past Lake Placid, 5-0. MUHS had defeated the Bombers, 5-1, on the road earlier in the month.
A Larocque goal set up by sophomore Andy Giorgio gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead after on period. The Tigers then broke the game open with three second-period goals, two by Kearns. Kearns completed the hat trick with an unassisted third-period strike.
Bartlett scored the other Tiger goal, and also picked up an assist. Farnsworth assisted the Tigers’ first two goals in the second period, and Niemo earned the first assist on Kearns’ second goal.
Junior Jeffrey Stearns made 11 saves for the shutout in the Tiger goal, and Lake Placid goalie Anders Stanton made 46 saves.
 
DEFENSEMAN ROBBIE BICKNELL, left, helps clear the goal crease in the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to Stowe on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James
WEDNESDAY GAME
In Wednesday’s 6-1 win over CVU the Tigers took the lead with a pair of goals late in the first period and put the game away with three goals in the third. Giorgio, assisted by Bartlett and Larocque, and Kearns, from Farnsworth and Tucker Stearns, scored in the final 1:05 of the first. Kearns, from Niemo, made it 3-1 in the second before Ben Ross answered for the Redhawks.
In the third junior Logan Pierson-Flagg’s first varsity, goal, set up by Nadeau, made it 4-1, and Larocque, from Nadeau and Bicknell, and Hescock, from O’Brien, added the final goal. Hooper backstopped the win with 15 saves, and CVU goalie Ty Dousevicz made 28 stops.

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