The Team That Set the Standard

1961 Hockey Team Picture
1961 Hockey Team

Collegiate ice hockey was a vastly different game 50 years ago. Goalies did not wear masks. The slap shot was not widely used. Checking in the offensive zone was not permitted. Some teams played outdoors and artificial ice was still a novelty. Players wore helmets consisting of three pieces of leather held together with elastic. The season was shorter too. At Middlebury the first hockey practice wasn’t held until the last football game had been played.

College hockey was a higher-scoring affair too, especially when Middlebury played. Many games ended 10-2 or 7-6—or even 17-3, which was the score in games against both Dartmouth and Norwich in the winter of 1961.

Coach Walter “Duke” Nelson’s 1960­–61 team won 19 games and lost only two. The Panthers averaged more than nine goals per game, while the squad’s stellar netminders—Frankie Costanzo ’61 and Chuck Gately ’62—allowed fewer than three goals per contest.

Score Card

The stars were aligned for the hockey team to excel that year. After the 1959­–60 campaign’s 16-7 record, most of Duke’s lettermen returned. Five of the high-flying freshmen who entered Middlebury in 1957 were now seniors: Frank Coy, Bob and Jerry Fryberger, Tor Hultgreen, and the captain, Phil Latreille. The Fryberger twins and their brother, Dates ’61, formed the only all-brother line in college hockey.

The team’s headliner was the high-scoring Phil Latreille. The Montreal native and three-time all-American registered an NCAA-record 80 goals that season to complete his Middlebury career with 250 goal and 96 assists. He still holds seven NCAA scoring marks, and after the season’s finale he had a four-game trial with the New York Rangers.

Although the 1960-61 icemen had the best record in the Tri-State League, Middlebury was not selected for the NCAA tournament. But the team’s 19-2 record under the legendary Duke Nelson against bigger schools like Princeton, RPI, Clarkson, and Yale earned it plaudits as  one of the greatest Middlebury teams of all time.