Tiger boys’ hockey moves to 3-0 with two come-from-behind wins
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team so far is making the best of its COVID-shortened season — on Saturday the host Tigers moved to 3-0 by rallying past overmatched, but stubborn, Burlington, 4-3.
The Seahorses led, 3-1, with 5:26 left in the second period after making the most of their few chances — they scored on three of their first five shots on goal, twice on power plays.
But despite the heroics of Burlington’s freshman goalie, Steven Labombard, who made 45 saves, a Tiger comeback seemed inevitable.
After Burlington took that two-goal lead, Tiger senior Andy Giorgio one-timed home a cross-crease pass from classmate Bode Rubright less than a minute later. Giorgio also assisted senior Abel Anderson’s tying and Kellen Bartlett’s winning goals in the third period.
With all three Tiger lines peppering Labombard, Giorgio said the Tigers believed they would pull the game out, just as they had after falling behind at home on Wednesday against Mount Mansfield.
“We were down, 2-0, last game, also, and we were able to come back for that one. So I think we all just knew we just had to work to get the puck in the net,” Giorgio said. “We were getting tons of shots. I think we knew we were going to start finding the back of the net at some point.”
Even though he replaced sophomore goalie Devon Cyr with freshman Giles Heilman (each made three saves) after Burlington took the 3-1 lead, MUHS Coach Derek Bartlett said the goals came because the Tigers lost their focus at times on defense. He was pleased with the Tigers’ offensive effort and puck movement, however.
“When the puck was not in the offensive zone, we just had to make sure we were responsible defensively,” Bartlett said. “At times we were a little sloppy in the D zone.”
All three Tiger lines pounced on the Seahorses in a first period in which MUHS outshot BHS, 15-1. Rubright, Abel Anderson, Timothy Hunsdorfer, Matthew Kiernan, Jordan Martin and Henry Anderson all tested Labombard.
But only the Seahorses’ one shot went in. At 5:20, four seconds into a power play, Ethan Vincent picked the lower left corner from high between the circles.
The Tigers equalized on a power play 24 seconds into the middle period on the first of Kellen Bartlett’s two goals. Bartlett tipped Hunsdorfer’s shot from the left point high into the near side, with senior defender Joey Niemo also assisting.
BHS countered soon afterward. With the Tigers pressing, Theodore Schulman sprung Cannon Poulin down the left side, and Poulin’s low shot from the circle nestled inside the far post.
The Seahorses soon afterward drew a penalty and made it 3-1 at 5:26. Cyr stopped a Schulman bid on the doorstep, but Finn Riley backhanded home the rebound.
The Tigers took charge again, and less than a minute later Giorgio’s goal made it 3-2. Heilman then made a key save, denying a Pouliot 10-footer after he stole the puck.
The Tigers pressed relentlessly in the third and went on a power play five minutes in. At 5:42 Abel Anderson went coast-to-coast with a Giorgio feed, circled the net clockwise and slid the puck inside the right post to tie the game.
The Tigers took the lead 13 seconds later, when Bartlett one-timed Giorgio’s diagonal pass from the top of the right circle into the net’s left side. The Tigers did not allow a shot the rest of the way: Defenders Tucker Stearns, Anderson, Niemo, Henry Hunsdorfer and Cole Schnoor took care of business, and the forwards forechecked well.
On Wednesday the Tigers shrugged off a two-goal first-period deficit and beat visiting Mount Mansfield, 4-2. The Tigers got one goal from Iain Olsen and two from Rubright in the final 4:50 of the second period. Rubright completed a hat trick with an empty-netter. Heilman made 20 saves, and Declan Heney made 29 for MMU.
The Tigers will face Burr & Burton (3-0) on the road on Wednesday and visit Mount Mansfield on Saturday.
Giorgio said the Tigers are happy about the wins, the quality of their play, and, more than anything, the fact they are playing.
“It’s very, very nice. It was definitely not fun waiting around and not getting to play any games at all,” Giorgio said. “And now that we’re getting out here it’s super fun.”
Bartlett feels the same way, especially with no guarantee there will be hockey playoffs this season. He said he is happy the Tigers are playing well and hard, have good chemistry, and he has a balanced roster that allows everybody to skate.
“We’re all just thrilled to be playing right now,” Bartlett said. “And it shows in their body language and in the way they’re playing.”
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