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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Men's Hockey Gets Off to Fast Start with Three Easy Wins

Author: Peter Yordan Staff Writer

The five-time national champion Middlebury Men's Hockey team began another season this past week with three easy victories and one disappointing loss. With several new faces joining a host of veterans, the Panthers are confident that they have once again put together a team capable of vying for a national championship.

The team waded gently into its long and perilous season with a couple of low-intensity matches before Thanksgiving break. On Friday Nov. 16, Middlebury traveled down to Saratoga Springs to kick off its season against Skidmore College. Despite scoring first, the overmatched Thoroughbreds soon submitted quietly as Middlebury fired a barrage of 47 shots to take a clean 6-1 victory. Fittingly, last year's leading goal scorer, Adam Foote '04 was the first Panther to find the net this season with a power-play goal 13 minutes into the first period. Five minutes later, Matt Dunn '02 scored another power-play goal to give Middlebury the lead. Seniors Andy Campbell and J. F. Duchesne each scored a goal in the second period to put the game beyond doubt, and Kevin Cooper '04 notched his first goal of the season one minute into the third period. Matt Snyder '02 finished the scoring with a power-play goal with 12 minutes remaining to seal off the team's first win.

The next day, the Panthers traveled to Massachusetts College to play in another lopsided affair. Snyder started things off auspiciously with a goal nine minutes into the game. Reeling from the Panther pressure, Massachusetts took an early timeout to attempt to regain their composure. The gambit was proven a failure within a minute when Foote and Cooper scored in rapid succession to give the team a 3-0 lead. In the second period the team gave one back on the penalty kill before Snyder decided to put on a show, scoring three more goals before the period break. Though his four goals would have been enough on their own for the victory, Mike Kennedy '04 added another for good measure early in the third period. Massachusetts salvaged two more goals, but after 49 shots on goal Middlebury left with an easy 7-3 win.

The next weekend the Panthers left early from Thanksgiving vacation to take part in the annual Great Northern Shootout. Their first game on Friday was against host Potsdam. Both teams struggled to work the tryptophan out of their systems in the early going, and it wasn't until 15 minutes into the second period that Middlebury was able to break the deadlock with a goal by Dunn. From then on it was smooth sailing for the team and goals by Snyder, Cooper and Andrew Helming '04, along with another by Dunn, gave the team a 5-0 victory.

The next day, however, was a different story. Middlebury faced its first quality opponent, their dangerous in-state rivals, Norwich. The Cadets had just survived an exhausting double-overtime match-up the night before, but Middlebury was unable to capitalize on their opponents' fatigue. The Panthers were unable to score early on, despite having a two-man advantage for a full two minutes at 1:47 into the first period. Norwich found the opportunity to right itself when Campbell was called for tripping several minutes later. The Cadets converted their chance and scored again on the power play six minutes later, to go into the locker room during the first period break with a 2-0 lead. If Middlebury dug themselves into their hole in the first period with their penalties, it was Norwich who proceeded to bury them there with an onslaught of three goals in the second period. Dunn's tally 10 minutes into the second was the lone Panther goal of the night, and when the final whistle had blown, the team found itself on the wrong end of a 5-1 score.

"They came out ready to play, and we didn't," said head coach Bill Beaney. "We couldn't score at all on our power plays."

The team will have to rebound quickly to finish off the fall season on a strong note. Before the winter break Middlebury must play several more important games, including a matchup against rival Plattsburgh State, the defending Division III National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champs. Captains Ryan Constantine '02 and Grayson Fertig '02, along with assistant captain Snyder will be looking to lead the Panthers at least as far as last year's team, which lost to Plattsburgh in the NCAA tournament. Last year's team was marked by its youth, with at least seven first-years on the squad. This year those players are maturing sophomores, looking to take a more active role on the team. "The sophomore class will probably be the key class for us this season," said Coach Beaney. "We have a number of solid veteran players this year who have played in big games and understand what it takes to be successful at the national level." Several first-years have also joined the team, with Timothy Graham and Patrick Nugent seeing significant ice time in the early going.

Family pride will be at stake when Middlebury plays its home opener this Friday against Southern Maine in another classic "Battle of the Beaneys." Coach Bill Beaney will attempt to deliver a victory to the Panther faithful over his brother Jeff Beaney's Huskies, while the team looks to catch its stride again and put last week's loss behind it.