Sports

Men’s hockey season ends with playoff loss

PANTHER SENIOR GOALIE Brian Ketchabaw and defenders Brett Dineen, left, and Tyler Capello watch as Wesleyan’s Emmet Powell rings the right post with a shot during Saturday’s NESCAC men’s quarterfinal at Kenyon Arena.

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s hockey team took a step forward this year, knocking off two teams higher in the standings in the final weekend of the regular season to earn the right to host a home NESCAC playoff game for the first time since 2014.
But on Saturday the Panthers’ journey came to an end in that playoff game, when visiting No. 5 seed Wesleyan rallied in the third period to oust No. 4 Middlebury, 4-2.
The Panthers scored twice in the second period to erase a Cardinal lead, but Wesleyan (13-11-1) found the net twice in the first 7:01 of the third period and added a late power-play goal.
The result ended a season that saw the Panthers start strong, but lose five straight in January as senior goalie Brian Ketchabaw missed time with a injury. Middlebury then picked up its play again in the late going, finishing 3-2-3 in its final eight games.
Overall, the Panthers ended at 10-12-3, 8-8-3 against league foes, and outscored its opponents by 71-69. The program also increased its win total for the fourth straight season and posted a winning record in regular-season NESCAC play.
As tough as it was for Coach Neil Sinclair to see his team lose on Saturday, he credited the Panthers, especially the seniors, for continuing to advance the program’s values as well as its record.
“From where we were when we started to where we are now, the seniors have done an unbelievable job with the leadership,” Sinclair said. “They’ve set the standard to what we’re aspiring for. So now the young guys know what they need to do. And that’s going to be the legacy of this group. Yes, we wanted to win one more game, and we wanted to get to the NESCAC championship. But the important thing is the foundation is there, and the team culture is in a really good place.”
In the first period Saturday Wesleyan’s Tyler Kobryn hit the post at 5:51, and Ketchabaw denied Walker Harris from the slot seconds later. Later in the period Ketchabaw slid to his right to rob Spencer Fox, and then Cardinal goalie Tim Sestak just managed to stick away Panther defenseman Conor Breen’s screened bid from the center point.
Wesleyan broke through with 48 seconds remaining in the period on a power play. Ketchabaw (17 saves) stopped a Fox shot from the left point, but Cam Peritz tucked the rebound inside the right post.
Zach Shapiro tied the game 1:55 into the second period. Emack Bentley broke up a clear near the Wesleyan line, Tyler Capello nudged the puck toward the crease, and Shapiro rapped it past Sestak. The Cardinals killed two ineffective Panther power plays in the period, but Panthers took the lead with 40 seconds left on senior Brendan Dawson’s goal. Paddy Mangan slid the puck across to Dawson at the left point, and his slap shot found the net through traffic.
Wesleyan tied the score and took the lead in the third on two well-executed plays. At 2:01 Jordan Rose, about 12 feet out, tipped in Liam Donelan’s drive from the right point. At 7:21, Hunter Vanier one-timed in Quincy Gregg’s feed from behind the net.
Panther seniors Owen Powers and Mitchell Allen had the best chances to equalize. At 12:07 Sestak (21 saves) smothered Powers’s point-blank bid on a Paddy Bogart feed, and 14 minutes in Sestak padded away a close-range Allen bid at the left post. With 4:30 to go Alex Heinritz had a good look on a feed from Panther partner Charlie Parsons from the right corner, but his one-timer slid wide to the left.
At 17:59 Cardinal Emmet Powell buried a power-play rebound — and the Panthers’ chances.
“I thought we played really well after they got the third goal,” Sinclair said. “We got our legs going. And we had spurts in the second and in the first. It wasn’t necessarily our best, but I’m proud of how our guys fought and kept going at the end. A bounce here or a bounce there in the third period and it’s a tie game.”
 As well as Powers, Allen, Dawson and Ketchabaw, defender Brett Dineen and forwards Danny Tighe and Connor Lloyd will graduate this spring.
Sinclair said they all helped brighten the program’s future.
“There’s not another group I’d rather coach. And we’re real excited about the guys coming in next year,” he said. “I think we’re in a really good spot.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
Sports

Sping Sports Report: Mt. Abe teams are seeking championships

The spring of 2023 overall treated Mount Abraham Union High School athletes pretty well, e … (read more)

Sports

Spring Sports Report: MUHS teams ready to enjoy the spring

Middlebury Union High School offers its students more athletic choices in most seasons tha … (read more)

Sports

Spring Sports Report: OV squads will rely on new faces

Two spring sports programs at Otter Valley have each won a Division II title and reached a … (read more)

Share this story: