Girls' hockey rallies to tie U-32 Raiders

TIGER FORWARD BELLA Gale gets ready to launch a shot at the U-32 net during Friday’s home girls’ hockey game. Gale scored one of the Tigers’ four goals as they rallied to tie the visiting Raiders. Independent photo/Steve James

TIGER DEFENDER RYLEY Olsen protects the turf in front of MUHS goalie Lydia Deppman against U-32’s Megan Ognibene during Friday’s girls’ hockey game. The Tigers rallied for a 4-4 tie against visiting U-32. Independent photo/Steve James

MUHS FORWARD AVERY Gale hunts the puck in front of the Raider goal during the MUHS girls’ hockey team’s 4-4 tie with visiting U-32 on Friday. Gale scored the late tying goal in the third period. Independent photo/Steve James

MUHS JUNIOR GOALIE Lydia Deppman kicks away Raider Jenna Mekklesen’s shot during the Tigers’ 4-4 tie with visiting U-32 on Friday. Deppman made 12 stops while sharing duties with Abby Hodsden in the MUHS goal. Independent photo/Steve James

TIGER SOPHOMORE AVERY Gale couldn’t stuff this loose puck past U-32 goalie Jin Clayton, but Gale found the net on a solo rush with 23 seconds to go to create the final score as the Tigers fought back to tie the visiting Raiders, 4-4. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team on Friday rallied late to overcome a slow start and salvage a 4-4 tie against visiting U-32.

The Tigers are in the regular season’s final week and will host two games that could determine their playoff fate. MUHS (10-6-2) is battling with Harwood (11-4-1) and Missisquoi (8-5-1) for the top two spots in Tier II of the three-tier girls’ hockey structure.

Tier II’s top two teams will join the Division I tournament, while the rest will compete in the D-II tournament along with Tier III. The Vermont Principals Association will announce pairings on Feb. 24.

Missisquoi will visit the Tigers at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, with D-I Rice (6-7-2) next at the Memorial Sports Center on Friday at 7 p.m.

Tiger Coach Matt Brush said his team played well in a Wednesday loss at D-I Essex. He believes the Tigers can compete moving forward.

“When we’re on our game, we’re a tough out,” Brush said. “The last two games here, and then the playoffs, I think if we’re consistent for three periods we can give some teams some good games.”

They did not put their best foot forward in falling behind the 6-10-1 Tier III Raiders, 3-1, on Friday. But Brush said he had asked the Tigers on Friday to play a two-forward, three-back formation that was unfamiliar to most of his players.

“I changed the system on the whiteboard right before the game. I asked the girls to do something they had not done since scrimmages at the start of the season,” Brush said. “So we had a lot of adversity, both mental and on the ice. And I’m very proud of how they responded over the course of the game. They slowly got better. We started playing the system as we outlined. But it was a challenge from the start of the game.”

He believes that improvement during the game showed the formation could be helpful moving forward.

“There are a couple teams we’ve already played, where if we see them in the playoffs, we’d be better off to use the 2-3,” Brush said. “And not knowing how we’d react, I wanted to test it out today.”

The Raiders have offensive ability, although they do surrender goals. With the Tigers working out the kinks early on U-32’s top players took advantage. At 1:50 of the first period an open Caitlyn Fielder one-timed the puck home from the slot after Megan Ognibene and Cece Curtain worked the puck out front.

Tiger goalie Lydia Deppman stopped a Fielder wraparound in the fifth minute, but the Raiders capitalized on a Tiger penalty at 5:42, when Fielder knocked in a loose puck after Tiger defender Hana Doria blocked a Curtain shot from the point. 

The Tigers got on the board at 10:44, when forward Taylor Moulton one-timed a shot high into the net from between the circles, with forward Camille Malhotra feeding her from the right side.

U-32 answered 1:09 later. Fielder won the puck behind the Tiger net. It popped out front, and Curtain backhanded it low into the right corner to make it 3-1. The Raiders outshot the Tigers, 14-7, in the period.

The Raiders continued to get more shots in the second, but were less dangerous as the Tigers began to skate better. Early on Tiger defender Audrey Schnoor hit the post on a power play, and Deppman (19 saves) stopped eight more shots before exiting the game after a late-period collision with a Raider forward. She left under her own power, and Abby Hodsden (eight saves) took over in goal.

The Tigers’ Bella Gale scored the period’s only goal, at 5:51. Gale sniped the upper right corner from the right dot.

The Tigers also excelled on a penalty kill, with Doria, Schnoor, Anna McIntosh, Merry Kimble and Ella Tucker doing good work.

But 16 seconds into the third period a defensive breakdown hurt the Tigers. Ognibene made it 4-2 after Curtain carried down the right side and centered.

One minute in Avery and Bella Gale and defender Isabella Pistilli swarmed the net after U-32 goalie Jin Clayton (18 saves) denied an Avery Gale bid, but they couldn’t stuff the loose puck home.

During a Tiger power play that began at 3:38, Clayton stopped Bella Gale from the left circle, and Hodsden stoned Curtain’s shorthanded breakaway bid.

At 5:51 Pistilli made it 4-3. She gathered a loose puck, skated by two Raiders, and found the lower right corner from the inside of the left circle.

The Tigers pulled Hodsden as time wound down. Finally Avery Gale burst across the blue line, outmaneuvered three defenders, and at 0:23 ripped a 10-foot wrist shot along the ice inside the left post to tie the game.

In overtime the Tigers outshot the Raiders, 5-1. Brush said he appreciated the late grit.

“I like to see girls that still believe that things can be accomplished,” he said. “The girls didn’t mail it in. They kept battling. They kept working. They kept fighting. And when it comes down to it, that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

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