MUHS boys’ hockey holds off Rutland

TIGER SOPHOMORE CLYDE Malhotra stretches to control the puck while Rutland goalie Noah Bruttomesso sprawls during Monday’s boys’ hockey game in Middlebury. The Tigers edged the Ravens, 2-1. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team withstood visiting Rutland’s third-period surge on Monday to knock off the previously undefeated Ravens, 2-1.

The Tigers improved to 2-0, and were scheduled to host Missisquoi on Wednesday after the deadline for this edition. They will host a four-team tournament on this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, starting with a 7 p.m. Tuesday game vs. Brookline, Mass.

The Tigers controlled most of the first two periods on Monday and took the 2-1 lead courtesy of goals by sophomore forward Toby Draper in the opening 12 minutes and senior defenseman Joey Niemo on a second-period power play.

But they needed senior goalie Eddie Hodde to be on point in the third period, when Hodde made 11 of his 22 saves, most of those in the opening seven minutes as the Ravens seized the momentum.

The Tigers responded by regaining their composure over the remaining eight minutes and forcing the action into the Rutland end.

First-year coach and former Tiger player Jordan Stearns was pleased with his Division II team’s performance against an undefeated D-I foe, particularly with the way it answered the Ravens’ late challenge.

TIGER SOPHOMORE GAVIN McNulty lines up a shot at a Rutland net crowded by senior teammate Matt Kiernan as well as Raven goalie Noah Bruttomesso during Monday’s game in Middlebury. MUHS prevailed, 1-0.
Independent photo/Steve James

“They really put the pressure on us in the third. They’re averaging five, six goals a game. Eddie played extremely well back there for us, and as a team we really held it together,” Stearns said. “It was really just a team win all the way through. They didn’t give into the pressure Rutland was pouring on in the third period. I’m really happy with the effort from the guys.”

All three lines took it to Rutland from the opening faceoff. The Tigers outshot the Ravens by 10-6 in each of the first two periods, and the chances started early, when Raven goalie Noah Bruttomesso stopped MUHS senior forward Matt Kiernan on his doorstep when Kiernan tried to cash in a Niemo rebound.

Bruttomesso (27 saves) also stopped sophomore forward Kellan Bartlett from the slot five minutes in, but could not deny Draper in transition at 5:37. Senior forward Jordan Martin sprung Bartlett out of the Tiger end, and Bartlett relayed to Draper steaming down the right side. Draper reached the right circle before finding the lower left corner with a crisp wrister.

Hodde made his best save of the period with about 4:30 to go. He slid to his right to stop Timothy Peer at the left post on a cross-crease setup from Cameron Rider. Bruttomesso matched him in the period’s final minute by stopping a Draper one-timer.

THIS SHOT BY Tiger Clyde Malhotra, behind the net, bounced between the pads of Rutland goalie Noah Bruttomesso and into the crease, but the Raven defense cleared it before Tiger Jordan Martin, left, could tuck it home. The Tigers topped visiting Rutland, 2-1, on Monday.
Independent photo/Steve James

Bruttomesso also kept the Tigers off the board in an early second-period power play, stopping Draper and sophomore defender Eliot Heminway from point-blank and covering up the second rebound with sophomore Clyde Malhotra hunting it.

The Ravens equalized at 8:04. Ethan Widewake sent the puck behind the net from the right side, and it took a funny bounce and popped out to William Alexander at the left post. Alexander quickly tucked the gift home.

MUHS retook the lead at 10:48. With the Tigers on a power play Niemo picked up a loose puck between the top of the circles and wristed it through a crowd, including Malhotra providing a screen out front. The puck found its way into the upper right corner.

Rutland had a chance to tie on its own power play, but Hodde snared Alden Good’s screened shot from the left circle with two seconds left in the period.

Hodde had to be sharp as the third period opened as the Tigers had trouble clearing their zone against a more aggressive Raven forecheck. Hodde made strong saves on Alexander and Patrick Cooley in the first two minutes. Five minutes in Hodde did well to seal off the right post on a Cooley wraparound bid.

But the momentum changed.

“They really jumped on us in the first part of the third period,” Stearns said. “But what I’m happy about is the guys … answered it again to come back.”

TIGER SENIOR JORDAN Martin had a good look at goal on Monday, but Rutland goalie Noah Bruttomesso was equal to the task. The Tigers prevailed, 2-1, despite Bruttomesso’s 27 stops.
Independent photo/Steve James

Stearns pinpointed a critical shift when Iver Anderson and Kiernan worked the puck into the Rutland zone and bottled up the Ravens.

“They got the puck deep, and they kept the puck deep,” he said. “That’s really what turned the tide.”

The defense of Niemo, Heminway and juniors Cole Schnoor and Henry Hunsdorfer also reasserted itself, although Hodde had to make one more key save after the Ravens pulled their goalie, getting his left shoulder on Cooley’s late bid at the right post.

Especially given his team has only four seniors, Stearns said he was happy on Monday with its discipline on the ice, its offensive and defensive work in transition in the neutral zone, and its contributions from all three lines.

“I’m feeling really good. The guys are working hard in practice,” Stearns said. “That’s really making the difference, too. If we can keep doing that and keep getting better, then I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”

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