Author: Peter Yordan
The Middlebury men's hockey team managed to successfully navigate through a mire of non-conference opponents over the past few weeks, emerging with an unblemished record of 5-0 as it starts of the most challenging segment of its schedule. Beginning Friday, the team will start a streak in which it must face the bulk of its New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) opponents in a series of games that will go a long way toward determining how far Middlebury will advance in its quest for a national championship.
After their fierce 1-1 tie with rival Bowdoin on Jan. 12, the team found itself facing a two week lull in its schedule in which it was to play a succession of lesser-ranked opponents all the way up to the close of winter term. The team was able to hold on for a 3-2 win over Potsdam on Jan. 15 before exploding against New England College and St. Anselm, with victories of 7-1 and 9-1 respectively. Matt Snyder '02 accounted for three of the tallies against St. Anselm, recording his second hat trick of the season.
This past weekend the team traveled down to Boston for two more non-conference games. On Friday, the team matched up against UMASS-Boston. Senior J.F. Duchesne and junior Robert Chisholm started things out quickly for the Panthers with a goal a piece, and first-year Levi Doria scored his second goal in three games to give the team a commanding 3-0 lead after the first period. Ryan Constantine '02 found the net on a two-man advantage in the second period, and John Dawson '04 finished off the scoring with his 10th goal of the year. Christian Carlsson '02 turned aside all 19 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the year, giving the Panthers a commanding 5-0 win.
The next day the Panthers turned their sights to Babson College. The team was playing its fourth away game in a row, and play started out slowly in the first period, with neither side able to find the net. It wasn't until 10 minutes into the second period that Kevin Cooper ' 04, Middlebury's leading goal scorer, managed to score to give Middlebury the lead. Two minutes later, however, the Beavers answered with a goal of their own to tie the score at one apiece. The score remained that way going into the third period, and the Panthers found themselves facing the unappetizing prospect of an embarrassing result against one of their weaker opponents.
It was Cooper, however, who once again gave Middlebury the lead with his second goal of the night five minutes into the period. The defense held on until the final whistle, and the team secured itself its fifth straight win. "We didn't respect the teams we were playing," said co-captain Constantine. "We didn't work hard enough for the wins."
Middlebury will have to be more prepared for the remainder of their season, in which they will face five straight NESCAC opponents in rapid succession before taking on Norwich on Feb. 12. The Cadets are the only team this year to defeat the Panthers, beating them 5-1 back in November. The results of the match-ups will most likely determine the seeding for the NESCAC tournament, with the number one seed earning home ice advantage throughout. The winner of the NESCAC tournament also gets an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
The team will need to rely on its depth and its goaltending to survive its upcoming tests. Carlsson has been superb in goal all year long, posting an imposing 1.16 goals-against-average, by far the lowest in the league. On the other end of the ice, the Panthers will need to continue their balanced scoring. Middlebury currently has 12 players with point totals in double figures, and will need strong efforts from everyone to stay on top of the league.
"We have the potential to do great things," said Constantine. "I am really expecting everyone to step up and perform. I don't see any reason why we can't host the NESCACs."
Men's Puck Conquers the Bay Colony, Looks to Empire State
Author: Peter Yordan