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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Despite Early Troubles, Men's Hockey Asserts Authority

Author: Peter Yordan

With an important match-up against Plattsburgh State looming on the horizon, the Middlebury men's hockey team coolly dispatched two overmatched foes this past weekend. Facing off against Southern Maine and Salem State (Ma.), the Panthers earned the expected two victories with relative ease. On Friday Middlebury played its home opener against the Huskies from Southern Maine. A good crowd was present for the game, and by the second period the swelling throng of students had become loud and persistent in their cheering. Expecting a rather pedestrian win, the Panther faithful were surprised to encounter an unexpectedly tense match.

Middlebury started with a bang, as co-captain Ryan Constantine '02 took the puck off the opening face-off, sped into the opposing zone and beat the Southern Maine goalkeeper with a wrist shot to give Middlebury the lead seven seconds into the game. The team continued to apply pressure to their opponent's defense, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the game turned into a blowout.

The Huskies, however, managed to weather the Panther storm, and 10 minutes later Southern Maine slipped a puck past Marc Scheuer '04 to tie the game. Middlebury was given a chance to regain the lead when five minutes later Southern Maine earned a penalty, but the Panthers once again got into trouble with their special teams. Allowing their opponents to break out of the zone with a speedy counterattack, Middlebury surrendered a short-handed goal and finished the first period at a 2-1 deficit.

In the second period Andrew Helming '04 made a nice pass to fast moving first-year Tim Graham, who scored his first career goal as a Panther. Two minutes later Adam Foote '04 deftly corralled an airborne puck with his stick and fired a shot past the opposing goalie to regain the lead.

Twelve seconds later, however, the Huskies returned the favor with a goal to tie the game at three a piece. The score remained uncomfortably close when the teams left the ice for the second intermission.

In the third period, however, the Panther team finally asserted itself. Helming scored at the six-minute mark to give the Panthers the lead. Matt Snyder '02 then took advantage of a slap shot that ricocheted off of a defender's back to give Middlebury a 5-3 lead. Helming scored again several minutes later to put the game out of reach and give the team a 6-3 victory.

The next day the Panthers burned through a match-up against Salem State. The game was never in doubt, as Middlebury methodically administered an 8-0 drubbing to their overmatched opponents.

"Our team really came together well," said head coach Bill Beaney. "They communicated well and supported each other. I thought it was the best hockey we have played all year." Foote scored in the first minute to set the tone for the day, and his goal was shortly followed by goals by Aaron Copeland '03 and Andrei Makarov '04. From that point on the game was basically over. Robert Chisholm '03 scored, John Dawson '04 scored twice and Foote added another to bring the team total to eight.

On Friday the team will welcome rival Plattsburgh State to Middlebury for one of their most important games so far. Plattsburgh and Middlebury have shared a number of important match-ups over the past few years, with the Cardinals eliminating the Panthers from the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The team will be looking to avoid their second loss of this season against the defending national champions and will have to find a way to beat Plattsburgh's star goalie, Niklaus Sundberg.

"We will have to keep our composure and be better than they are at special teams," said Beaney. "And we will have to figure out how to score on their goalie."

Middlebury was outhustled by Norwich in its first loss this season, but there should be no complacency among the Panthers this weekend. As far as Middlebury is concerned there is some unfinished business between these two teams, and a victory would be a perfect way for the Panthers to finish up the fall season.