Hornets skate past Tiger boys in D-I semifinal
ESSEX — Top-seeded host Essex blanked the No. 4 Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team, 7-0, in a Division I semifinal on Saturday.
The Hornets went down on the wrong side of a five-on-three power play in the first four minutes, and the Tigers looked like they had all the momentum early.
But the Hornets killed off both penalties and scored just four seconds after the second penalty had expired. And they never looked back, as they dominated and punched their ticket to Gutterson Fieldhouse for the D-I final for the second year in a row.
Essex Coach Chris Line, whose team finished five-for-five on the penalty kill, said the early success against the Tiger power play was pivotal.
“The emphasis this week was on our penalty kill, because Middlebury has a very good power play with a setup similar to ours. So we knew if we played disciplined and not over pursue on the outside, we would be in a decent position to kill some penalties,” Line said. “Obviously you don’t want to go down five-on-the early in the first period, but we were able as a team to kill that off and take back all that momentum and it just went on from there.”
Grady Cram started the onslaught for the Hornets with the goal right after the early penalty kill and ended it with a shorthanded goal in the third. He finished the game with a hat trick, also tallying a goal in the second period.
“To get a goal quickly after killing off that five-on-three just took back all the momentum,” said Line.
MIDDLEBURY’S ABEL ANDERSON tries to slow Maxwell Line and the Essex attack in Saturday’s Division I hockey semifinal.
Essex Reporter photo/Anthony Labor Jr.
Willem Barwin added two goals in a span of less than two minutes in the first period, after which Middlebury starting goalie Jeffrey Stearns (two saves) left in favor of Ezekiel Hooper (17 saves in about 20 minutes).
Max Line and Charles Wiegand IV also scored for the Hornets and Jonah Janaro added a pair of assists.
Essex goalie Sam Foster made 18 saves, including some nice stops during the critical early penalty kill.
Freshman goalie Edwin Hodde made six saves in the third period for the Tigers, who had split two regular season games with the Hornets, including a 2-1 win on home ice on Feb. 27. That result clinched a home quarterfinal for MUHS, which defeated South Burlington in that matchup, also by 2-1.
The Tigers finished a winning campaign at 10-9-3, while Essex will carry a 17-3-2 record into its final vs. No. 6 Rice on Wednesday at UVM.
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