Big period pushes U-32 past Tiger girls

MUHS FORWARD ERIN Mulcahy skates after the puck in front of diving U-32 defender Gabrielle Cruickshank on Tuesday during the girls’ hockey game in Middlebury, which the visiting Raiders won, 5-2. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team played two strong periods against U-32 on Tuesday at the Memorial Sports Center.

But the Raiders dominated the second period with four unanswered goals and they came away with a 5-2 victory.

The game was intended to be one of two in the first round of the Tigers’ annual holiday tournament, but Harwood dropped out due to COVID issues. The Tigers had been set to play the Highlanders on Wednesday, but that game was canceled. Instead the Tigers’ next game will be at Woodstock this coming Wednesday.

The news is not all bad for MUHS, which is 2-2 after Tuesday’s setback. On Dec. 22 Avery Gale scored four goals as the Tigers defeated host Burr & Burton, 4-3 in overtime.

Gale scored in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. Erin Mulcahy assisted two of her goals, and McKenna Raymond and Quinn Doria added helpers.

And Co-Coaches Erin Robinson and Duncan Rollason saw things they liked during Tuesday’s game from their young team (seven eighth-graders, four ninth-graders, four sophomores and four upperclass players). They cited improved work clearing the defensive zone, better organization on a new forecheck system, and more shots on goal.

“They connected a lot of the dots that we’ve been trying to get them to connect,” Robinson said. “We’ll get there.”

TIGER FORWARD AVERY Gale tries to stuff a loose puck past U-32 goalie Renee Porter during Tuesday’s girls’ hockey game in Middlebury, won by the visiting Raiders. Gale scored during that game and has five goals in her past two outings.
Independent photo/Steve James

Rollason said for much of the game the Tigers did a good job of controlling U-32 standouts Alyssa Frazier (three goals and two assists) and Caitlyn Fielder (goal and two assists), but credited the two Raiders.

“Those two were on our radar from the beginning, and I think we were disciplined to contain them,” Rollason said. “They made some adjustments, and we made some adjustments, too. I think those stronger players might have turned their games up as well.”

The Tigers had an edge in play for most of the first period and took the lead on a Gale power-play goal at 6:31. Gale picked off a clearing attempt at the blue line and skated in alone on U-32 goalie Renee Porter. Gale’s close range forehand broke in off Porter’s glove.

The Tigers soon had two more great chances, but Ellie Wilkinson-Sachs fired wide from the right post, and Porter stopped Amelia Quesnel’s tip of a shot from the point.

Back-to-back penalties to close the period slowed the Tigers, but the best chance came when Tiger Lily Finn had a shorthanded breakaway that Porter stopped. Other than that, the Tigers killed the penalties effectively, limiting the Raiders to long-range shots on goalie Ruby Hubbell.

Gale and Quesnel had good chances in the first minute of the second period, but momentum soon shifted. At 4:14 Hubbell made a brilliant point-blank glove save to rob Frazier. But at 5:32 Frazier stuffed a forehand home on another breakaway to even the score.

That opened the floodgates. Frazier added another breakaway score at 8:02, and at 10:31 Fielder stuffed home a Frazier feed from the bottom of the left circle. At 13:45 Allie Guthrie tipped in a Fielder shot to complete the run, with Frazier getting the second assist. Gale had a great chance in the final seconds, but Porter kicked away her low one-timer from the edge of the left circle.

That save loomed large when the Tigers came out stronger in the third. Porter stopped Gale and Lia Calzini breakaways in the first minute before Patience Hanley made it 4-2 at 3:12 by cashing in Raymond’s feed from the right corner.

TIGER FORWARD PATIENCE Hanley tucks the puck into the goal during the Tigers girls’ hockey team’s 5-2 loss to visiting U-32 on Tuesday. McKenna Raymond (No. 24), who assisted, moves in on the play.
Independent photo/Steve James

Nine minutes in Porter twice gave up rebounds on Hana Doria shots with Tigers swarming, but they couldn’t convert, and a minute later Porter snared a Quesnel bid.

Frazier iced the win at 10:18 with a slapper from the top of the right circle, with an assist from Fielder.

Porter finished with 18 saves for U-32, eight in the third period, while Hubbell made 24, 11 in the second period.

The Tiger coaches said they would also like to see a better ratio of finishes to chances. Sometimes promising shots from in tight went wide or found the goalie’s midsection, something they saw improve as the game went on.

“There were a lot of shots to the body,” Rollason said. “We said let’s shoot low and shoot hard, and we saw that adjustment in the third.”

Robinson said she expects to see “more pucks go into the net” as the young Tigers gain more faith in their abilities at the varsity level.

“I am really happy with how over the last couple of games their confidence has become stronger,” she said. “These girls have a lot of talent, a lot of skill, a lot of heart. I think sometimes it takes believing you have it to come through on the ice.”

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