February 21, 2011

         The Middlebury College men’s hockey team dropped its final game of the regular season, falling 3-2 to Castleton in Kenyon Arena. The Panthers (11-7-6) earn the third seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament and will host #6 Colby in the quarterfinals next Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Castleton improves to 21-3-1 overall, earning the second seed for the ECAC East Tourney.

         Castleton took a 1-0 lead 3:10 into the game when Stuart Stefan scored from the left wing after a drop pass from Justin Alonzo. The Spartans made it a 2-0 game at 10:55 with Stefan scoring his team-leading 19th goal of the season, this one on the power play. Tyler Atkins sent in a blast from the left wing that deflected off Stefan for the tally. The Panthers ended the period with a 2-0 deficit, going 0/4 on the power play, including 1:30 of five-on-three action.

            The Panthers took advantage of a five-on-three power play in the second period, scoring at the 5:31 mark. Junior Tucker Donohoe (Canton, Mass.) passed the puck to junior Charles Nerbak (Martinsville, N.J.) at the left wing, before his blast deflected in for his seventh of the year to make it a 2-1 game. The Panthers had a great chance to tie the game midway through the period, but could not score after a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty on the Spartans. Donohoe nearly tied the game with four minutes remaining in the period, but his backhander cutting to goal was denied by Erick Cinotti.

         The Spartans took a 3-2 lead at the 16:50 mark, when Ben Schoeneberger one-timed a crossing pass from Ross Herzog. Nerbak nearly tied the game moments later, but his shot hit the left post.

            Middlebury made it a one-goal game just 21 seconds into the third period, with rookie J.D. Vermette (Boucherville, Que.) netting his eighth of the season. First-year player Louis Belisle (Repentigny, Que.) fed Vermette cutting through the slot, as he scored with a quick wrister to the top right corner. The Spartans nearly answered moments later, but junior netminder John Yanchek (Hillsborough, N.J.) stopped Chris Wieland on a breakaway.

         Yanchek made a big glove save on Herzog with five minutes remaining, as Castleton went on the power play seconds later. Middlebury killed the power play and then pulled Yanchek (20 saves) with a minute remaining, but was unable to tie the game. The Panthers finished the game 1-8 on the power play, as Castleton racked up 14 penalties for 55 minutes. Middlebury ended the game with a 27-23 shots advantage, with Cinotti making 25 saves to earn the win.

         The previous night, Middlebury and Skidmore battled to a 3-3 tie in Kenyon Arena as the Panthers earned a school-record sixth tie.

            Skidmore jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:30 into the game with the second of the year from Alex Essaris. Alex Radmin made a nice centering pass from the right wing to Essaris, who finished from the slot. Middlebury tied the game midway through the first period with the first goal of the season for sophomore Chris Brown (Quincy, Mass.). Junior Tom Cantwell (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) made a nice pass from behind the net to Brown, who wristed a shot home through the five hole.

            The Panthers took a 2-1 lead early in the second, when senior Chaz Svoboda (Verdun, Que.) finished off a play in the slot at the 2:22 mark. Yanchek kept it a 2-1 game six minutes into the period, stopping a flurry of Thoroughbred shots, with some help from his sprawling defense. Skidmore netted the equalizer at 7:39 on the power play, with Hunter Thayer scoring on a wrist shot from the right win. Skidmore nearly took the lead minutes later, but Yanchek (13 saves) denied Thayer on a breakaway. The period ended in a 2-2 tie with the Panthers holding a 23-10 shots advantage.

            Skidmore took a 3-2 lead with just 3:02 remaining in the third period when Essaris scored his second of the game, this one on a backhander during a breakaway. The Panthers answered just 25 seconds later, tying the game at 17:23 and forcing it into overtime. Sophomore Mathieu Castonguay’s (St. Edouard, Que.) shot from the point was saved, before Nerbak potted his sixth of the season on the rebound.

         Middlebury had a great chance to win it in overtime, with rookie Darric White (Fairfield, Conn.) putting on a few nice moves two minutes in, before being denied by Colin Bessey (33 saves). Moments later, White took a quick shot on goal from the slot that sailed just wide. Middlebury ended the game with a 36-16 shots advantage.
• Men’s hockey record: 11-7-6
• Up next: 2/26 vs. Colby – 1:00 (NESCAC Quarterfinals)