MIDDLEBURY — Visiting Rutland on Saturday defeated the Middlebury Union High School boys’ hockey team, 4-0, in the Tigers’ home opener, taking advantage of five Tiger penalties to score two power-play goals and, in the eyes of MUHS Coach Derek Bartlett, wearing down his team by forcing them to play shorthanded so often.
“We just … can’t get five penalties here, six penalties last game. We can’t do that and expect to win games,” Bartlett said. “It affected us definitely in the third period and maybe halfway through the second. We’ve got to stay out of the box so we have legs. We ran out of gas.”
While the Division I Raiders improved to 2-0, the Tigers — who moved back to D-II this winter — fell to 1-1. They were coming off a 3-2 opening win at Mount Mansfield on Wednesday. The Tigers outshot the Cougars, 25-13, but needed Rio McCarty’s tie-breaking goal midway through the third period to secure the victory.
Keenan Bartlett set up that score, and also scored a first-period goal, from McCarty and Tyler Crowningshield. Devin Dwire, from Nick Audet, also tallied for the Tigers in the first period as they went up, 2-0, before MMU scored twice in the second. Goalie Sawyer Ryan made 11 saves for MUHS in that game.
Even though the result was not as good on Saturday, Bartlett said the Tigers played harder against a better team. Rutland only outshot MUHS, 21-16.
“I thought our level of compete was better. We played with much more intensity. At times I thought our puck movement was pretty sharp,” he said. “Up until about halfway through the second, a 2-0 game, we were still in the fight.”
But the Tigers took back-to-back penalties late in the second period, and allowed a backbreaking power play goal created by the Raiders’ most dangerous forwards, Max Major (goal and two assists) and Jordan Godfrey (two goals, assist). Major skated into the left-wing circle and fed an open Godfrey cutting toward the far post for the tip-in — with four seconds left in the period, just after the Tigers had survived being two men down.
“We killed a five-on-three, which was awesome,” Bartlett said. “But with four seconds, it’s just a matter of awareness … A kid comes down the back side and he’s wide open.”
Ryan did well to keep Rutland off the board early in the first, gloving shots from Major in the slot and Dan Eugair from the right wing circle. But at 7:25, Godfrey one-timed a puck from the left-wing circle into the far corner to make it 1-0.
Tiger Justin Stone apparently made it 1-1 just six seconds later with a similar shot, but the officials conferred and ruled the play offside. Soon after that, Rutland went on the power play, and at 8:24 Skyler LaFerriere netted a Major rebound to make it 2-0.
At 9:56 the Raiders got another power play, but the best chance on either side was Stone’s shorthanded bid from the high slot. The Tigers applied pressure later in the period, and Raider goalie Dean Abatiell (16 saves) denied Bartlett from the slot and defender Nathan Lalonde from the left point.
Ryan (17 saves) did well early in the second, stopping Major and Godfrey on a power play, and after that a Major wraparound and Ben Starer on the rebound.
The Tigers then came alive, with the group of Dwire, Nathan Audet and Stone buzzing the net and forcing Abatiell to make two close-range saves and drawing a penalty at 7:12, which unfortunately proved unproductive.
Then came the critical late second-period penalties, and the game got out of reach.
The Tigers did generate chances in the third, including a nice set-up of Crowningshield by McCarty that was deflected high, a Kevin Galenkamp backhander that was saved, and a Crowningshield rebound bid of a Stone shot that missed just wide left.
Major walked out of the right-wing corner and stuffed a shot home at 3:50 to make it 4-0, but later in the period was frustrated twice by the strong defense of Jordan Stearns.
Bartlett said the Tigers played better than the score might indicate, while the team’s two-forward, three-back system looks promising, but that they have to learn from their mistakes.
“The shots were 21-16 for the game and we came out with a 4-0 loss,” he said. “It was a little frustrating in that sense, but we’ve got to play smarter for sure, more disciplined.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.