Panther men’s lax ramps up and defeats Bowdoin, 14-9

MIDDLEBURY — After a slow start in its home opener against Bowdoin on Saturday, the Middlebury College men’s lacrosse team turned things around in a hurry — two minutes and four seconds of the second quarter, to be exact.
That’s how long it took Middlebury to score five goals and wipe out a 4-1 Polar Bear lead in a 14-9 victory that evened the Panthers record at 3-3, 2-2 in NESCAC play.
To that point the Panthers had possession of the ball, but a combination of Bowdoin goalie Jack O’Connor, who made six of his 16 saves in the first period; their own off-target shooting; and a Panther defense that Coach Dave Campbell said hadn’t settled in yet, had allowed Bowdoin to get off the blocks first.
The Panthers’ key surge came not long after Bowdoin (4-3, 2-2 NESCAC) scored twice in 37 seconds. Jeff Powers snuck in behind the Panther defense and converted Reed Baker’s feed from the left, and next a George Langan 12-yard laser to the lower left corner made it 4-1 at 12:33 of the second.
Then Middlebury flipped the switch. At 9:39 Danny Jacobs cut to goal and netted an Alderik van der Heyde feed. Twenty seconds later — after one of Jack Gould’s many faceoff wins — Luke Peterson picked up a loose ball out front and found the lower right corner from five yards out. Nineteen seconds later van der Heyde dodged in from the left side, switched to his left hand, and found the lower left corner from close range.
At 7:58 Frank Cosolito whipped in an eight-yard shot from the left, and at 7:35 Chase Goree swept through the defense and tossed a six-yarder high into the net to make it 6-4.
The Polar Bears got one back before the half, but their early momentum was gone. The Panther defense — Clay Hunt, Pierce Fricke, Ben Snow, Zeke Emerson and Alex Farley did most of the long-stick work — also had become more aggressive, double-teaming ball-carriers and forcing turnovers. After allowing four goals in the first 17:27, Middlebury surrendered just five more in the remaining 42:33.
But the offense settled down first, Campbell said.
“We had some good looks early, and we missed the cage. We weren’t shooting the ball well, and their goalie made a couple early saves on us, and I think we were a little tight on offense,” Campbell said. “We did a couple things schematically, but more than anything I think our guys just started playing with more confidence. And once you get a few to go I think you just loosen up naturally.”
At the other end Campbell said it was much the same story: The tactics changed slightly, but the players’ frame of mind made the larger difference.
“We mixed in some zone, but I think more than anything I think the guys settled into what they were doing and got back to our fundamentals. We want to be aggressive. And they started playing that way, and we created some nice turnovers. They were pretty disruptive,” he said. “You could just say we were pretty tight all over the field in that first quarter. In the second quarter we started playing bigger and with more confidence.”
A.J. KUCINSKI scores with a cross-shot on the run in the third quarter of the Panthers’ 14-9 win over Bowdoin on Saturday.
Independent photo/Steve James
Not to be overlooked is Gould, who is taking the faceoffs while the team’s specialist is recovering from injury. Gould helped Middlebury win 17 of 26 faceoffs, 15 of 20 through three periods, and finished with a game-high 10 ground balls.
“He keeps getting better every game. In the last two games he’s arguably been our MVP,” Campbell said.
The Panthers kept their second-period momentum in the third period with four straight goals to make it 10-5, with Jack Hoelzer, Jacobs (from A.J. Kucinski), van der Heyde and Goree doing the damage.
MIDDLEBURY JUNIOR CHASE Goree whips a shot past Bowdoin goalie Jack O’Connor for a score in the third quarter of Saturday’s home Panther win.
Independent photo/Steve James
The goals from Jacobs and Goree came on the break after the Panthers forced midfield turnovers, and the Panthers’ opening goal in the fourth quarter came after three rapid-fire Panther passes in transition to set up Jacobs, on a play that started when Emerson picked off a Bowdoin pass in the defensive end.
“That was our best game in transition all season long,” Campbell said.
The Polar Bears had a chance to get back in the game late in the third period. With the score 11-7 and the clock winding down Bowdoin’s Jimmy Young got a good look in transition, but Middlebury goalie Charles Midgley denied his low shot from eight yards out for what was probably the most important of his 10 saves.
MIDDLEBURY DEFENDERS PIERCE Fricke (17), Ben Snow (24), Clay Hunt (12) and goalie Charles Midgley bottle up Bowdoin attacker Will Murtagh in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 14-9 home Panther win.
Independent photo/Steve James
Eight Panthers scored. Jacobs finished with four goals and an assist, Goree netted three goals, and Kucinski added two goals and two assists. Powers and Langan netted hat tricks for the Polar Bears. Middlebury earned advantages in shots, 50-40, and ground balls, 40-32.
Campbell called it a big victory, noting Bowdoin had won three straight vs. the Panthers. He believes the Panthers “can win some games” if they keep putting in the effort.
“There are a lot of things we need to improve on. But we’ve got some good pieces and the kids work hard,” Campbell said. “We’re still throwing the ball away way too much for guys at this skill level. It needs to translate on game day. But the compete is there. The resiliency is there. We have those things in us. I love that about this team. We just need to clean up and execute what we do better.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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