MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team on Friday had little trouble winning its fifth straight game, 6-0 against visiting Lyndon.
The 9-2-1 Tigers pelted Lyndon goalie Derrick Colburn with 50 shots, while at the other end Tiger netminder Max Longchamp made seven stops against the 1-12 Vikings.
The young Tigers — there are no seniors on the roster — now stand in second place in Division II. They have not lost since a 4-2 setback at current leader Stowe on Jan. 8, and their streak includes a 5-1 win at then first-place Peoples on Jan. 29.
Junior tri-captain Steel White, a defenseman, said balance and positive attitudes have helped the Tigers succeed.
“The biggest part is that we’re playing as a team. There’s no one-man show out there. This team is the sum of all the parts,” White said. “And we’ve got a lot of good chemistry. We’ve been working really well together, and we know we’ve got to take every team seriously that we face.”
Many of the Tigers played together not only a year ago, when they showed promise at the varsity level, but also for many seasons in youth hockey. White said those experiences have helped.
“This is a really solid core here. We’ve all grown up playing together, and we’ve just built every year, trying to progress as much as we could,” he said.
The Tigers have succeeded these past five games despite the loss of a couple key players to a disciplinary issue. Those players will return next week, and Coach Derek Bartlett said he plans to work them back into the lineup quickly to get them into game shape during the final seven regular season contests.
Bartlett said all the Tigers have dealt well with the issue, on ice and off.
“We’ve responded to the whole situation in a positive manner, so aside from the hockey standpoint on the scoreboard, I think the hockey team has responded well to some of the adversity we’ve faced,” he said.
On Friday, Bartlett said the Tigers could have been crisper against the last-place Vikings in their first game since the win at Peoples, although he was pleased they finished strong.
“Big picture, we’ve got to show up night-in, night-out no matter who we’re playing, and that’s the message we’re trying to get to the kids,” he said. “They had an outstanding game against Peoples on Saturday, and we just talked about not having a letdown against a team in the standings that is pretty far down. But we’ve just got to play consistent hockey.”
One wonders what the first period might have looked like if the Tigers were firing on all cylinders. The scoreboard read 1-0, but the Tigers outshot the Vikings, 19-1.
Many Tigers created chances: The first two lines of Graham Barlow, Colin Babcock and Tim Shea, and Jordan Stearns, Sawyer Hescock and Keenan Bartlett predictably buzzed the net. But the skaters Coach Bartlett rotated into the third line — including Nick Audet, Trevor Emilo and Chris Hickley — broke through and lit the lamp. At 9:16, Emilo one-timed Hickley’s feed from the right-wing corner inside the left post.
Longchamp also a fine play in the period, ranging far into the left-wing circle to beat onrushing Viking forward Taylor Swartz to a puck.
In the second period the Tigers scored twice. At 2:16 Hescock picked off a Viking clear near the top of the right-wing circle, went in alone on Colburn, and flicked a forehand inside the left post. At 10:46 Shea made it 3-0. Stationed below the right-wing circle, Shea slapping home a bouncing puck from a sharp angle high into the net, with Barlow assisting.
With the MUHS defense of White, Ryan Crowningshield, Sawyer McLaughlin and Cody Gendreau snuffing out the occasional Viking rush, the Tigers added three goals in the final 15 minutes.
At 7:33, Hescock beat a defender down the left side and converted a breakaway, with assists going to Bartlett and White. At 8:57, Babcock rapped home Shea’s left-to-right pass across the slot, and at 12:00 Crowningshield’s long-range backhander deflected off a defender past Colburn, with Audet assisting.
White said the Peoples game was clearly more critical for the standings and the Tigers’ confidence, but that they will listen to Coach Bartlett’s message about playing hard every night.
“It was definitely a morale booster, but we can’t underestimate anyone just because we beat the first-place team. That was our turn to start stepping up, and now we have to treat everyone the same, and that means going 100 percent every time,” White said. “We can’t get too confident. We have to keep it in perspective and keep pushing.”
Bartlett said the Tigers have potential if they do listen to that message.
“Our plan is to be in the hunt until the end and host some playoff games. That’s what we’re shooting for at this point,” Bartlett said. “I think we can compete, right now, from what I’ve seen, with anybody in our division. It’s just a matter of playing 45 minutes of hockey, which we’ve done at times this year in a couple of games.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.