South Burlington hockey too much for MUHS

TIGER FORWARD LANDON Kean carries the puck up the ice during the MUHS boys’ hockey teams’ home loss to South Burlington last week. The 1-2 Tigers are hosting games at 7 p.m. this Wednesday and Thursday. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team on Dec. 21 was coming off an encouraging Dec. 17 win at Lyndon, when the Tigers scored three times in the third period to rally past a solid Viking squad, 3-2. 

The momentum did not carry over to that Wednesday night last week, when the Tigers hosted Division I South Burlington.

The Wolves took advantage of a defensive breakdown on the first shift of the game to take the lead on the way to a 6-0 victory, a result that dropped the Tigers to 1-2 heading into Wednesday and Thursday evening home games this week against the high school team from Brookline, Mass. 

The Tigers did outshoot the Wolves, 19-14, thanks largely to another surge in the third period (a 10-2 edge in shots on goal). But for most of the game SB controlled the action and limited the Tigers’ chances, including on four power plays. 

TIGER GOALIE TJ Baron holds the short side against this South Burlington scoring bid during the visiting Wolves’ victory over the MUHS boys’ hockey team on Dec. 21.
Independent photo/Steve James

Still MUHS Coach Jordan Stearns was not discouraged afterward, noting the shots and his team’s continued determination to compete. 

“There were a lot of positives there. We’ve just got to find the back of the net,” Stearns said. “We had more shots than they did.”

That said, Stearns credited the Wolves.

“That’s a really good team, too. Those guys can move. They’re big, they’re physical, they’re fast, they can all shoot the puck,” he said. “So it was a really good learning opportunity for the guys. Obviously it’s tough going down 6-0. But it is what it is … It’s not the outcome you want, but they (the Tigers) fought to the end, and that’s all we could ask from them.”

The trouble began when Wolf Nick Kelly powered past a defender down the right boards, circled the net, and found Jules Butler open off the left post for the one-time doorstep conversion 39 seconds after the puck was dropped. 

TIGER FORWARD HENRY Hunsdorfer had a golden chance during the MUHS boys’ hockey team loss to visiting South Burlington on Dec. 21, but Wolf goalie James Bradley denied the breakaway bid.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Tigers had two power plays in the first period, but struggled to link up and create any sustained pressure. Sophomore Quinn Collins launched one shot from the right circle during the first that SB goalie James Bradley sticked aside, and during the second Bradley stopped Eliot Heminway from the left point. 

Tiger goalie TJ Baron did his best work between the power plays, stopping Lucas Van Mullen from the left circle and then two point-blank rebound bids at around the six-minute mark. But with 1:13 to go in the first period Baron could not find Andrew Chandler’s long drive from the center point through a screen, and the Wolves took a 2-0 lead into the locker room. 

Baron (nine saves) denied Colby Reagan from the slot early in the second period, but by the end of the second 15 minutes the Wolves led by 5-0. At 3:09 Cyril Vandromme stuffed home a Harry Poquette feed from the right corner, at 11:56 Will Bradley skated down the left side and found the upper right corner from the left circle, and at 12:43 Bradley skated out of the right corner and stuffed the puck home short-side.

The Tigers had two chances on a mid-period power play, but Bradley turned aside Kellan Bartlett from the center point and Iver Anderson from the high slot. 

MUHS FORWARD KELLAN Bartlett (No. 23) tries to pick off South Burlington goalie James Bradley’s clearing pass during the visiting Wolves’ Dec. 21 victory over the Tigers.
Independent photo/Steve James

Van Mullen’s screened shot from the center point made it 6-0 two minutes into the final period. 

Then the Tigers came to life. Bradley, who made 10 of his 19 saves in the final period, had to kick away a close-range Henry Hunsdorder backhand on a feed from Bartlett five minutes in, and shortly afterward he gloved similar bids by Anderson and Landon Kean from the high slot. 

With two minutes to go, Bradley denied Sawyer Leonard from the left circle and then absolutely robbed Bartlett by gloving his low point-blank one-timer on the rebound. 

Stearns was pleased to see the energy and determination despite the adversity. Consistency will be the next step, he concluded.

“It’s just coming out and playing three periods of hockey,” he said. “We really haven’t done that yet. So that’s going to be the key.”

He acknowledged a couple areas where he would like to see improvement. Against a speedy team like the Wolves the Tigers will need to be more careful of not overcommitting in open ice, for example. 

“That was for sure the fastest team we’ve seen so far,” he said. “So we’ve just got to work on our angling. We’ve been working on that a lot and not watching the puck too much. We’re not out there to wreck guys, but we’re out there to play the body, use our body to angle out of the open ice toward the boards or angle them into pressure.”

The power play also could be more effective, although the return of first-line player Toby Draper in two weeks will help there, Stearns believes. 

“We’re missing one of our guys on our top line, so we had to throw someone in there, and those guys hadn’t played together yet,” Stearns said. “We’re trying to figure out who is going to slot in there while Toby is out of town.”

Overall, Stearns said he would like to see a bit more out of the Tigers, and he expects to do so given the positives he has also seen. 

“I think we’re still kind of feeling things out, probably not quite where I’d want to be,” Stearns said. “But we’re learning. We’re building towards the end of the season. So that’s when it really counts.” 

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