MUHS girls' hockey rides surge past T-Birds
MIDDLEBURY — After a couple dozen practices in the past month, the Middlebury Union High School girls’ hockey team, like most high school athletes everywhere in Vermont, were thrilled just to compete this past weekend.
It just made their return to action sweeter when the Tigers iced their Saturday-evening cake with a four-goal outburst that spanned the second and third periods to defeat visiting Missisquoi Valley Union, 4-0.
Senior defender Audrey Schnoor, whose two goals bookended the decisive surge, described the Tigers’ feelings of finally skating in a real game — and then winning.
“We really wanted it. It’s our first game. It’s been two months. We started a month-and-a-half late. We wanted to be out there doing our best while we had ice time,” Schnoor said. “We wanted to play as hard as we can every minute. It was really frustrating not being able to, and we were just so happy to be out there.”
The Tigers were facing a team that showed up with 22 skaters, including two goalies, while due to injuries and the decisions of some athletes not to play the MUHS team is suiting up 13 skaters, four of whom are goalies.
That means Coach Matt Brush and assistants Erin Robinson and Duncan Rollason can only roll out two lines and rotate three defenders in front of goalies Abby Hodsden and Lydia Deppman (along with Schnoor the only other Tiger seniors), who will handle the lion’s share of time between the pipes.
Schnoor credited the coaching staff when asked why the deeper T-Birds were unable to wear the Tigers down.
“We do conditioning at every other practice. Matt keeps us at a high level,” she said. “He knows we need it.”
Brush threw a bouquet back to his team.
“Nine skaters worked their butt off. We’ve been preaching that effort’s got to be our motto. We’ve got to work hard because we can’t rely on numbers,” Brush said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice, through the COVID, through the masks, and it showed in the third period, when we had only nine skaters and we still had a little juice.”
In the first period both teams took a while to play cohesively. The Tigers’ Channing Brush launched the game’s first shot five minutes in, and a minute later Hodsden, who played half the game and made 11 saves, denied T-Bird Haley Stefaniak twice.
The Tigers came closest to scoring in the period, when Brush hit the crossbar on a feed from Ella Tucker. The puck bounced to defender Hana Doria, but her shot slid just wide left. MVU had a late power play, but Hodsden stopped Lora Fresn’s bid from between the circles.
Both teams had golden chances early in the second period. Hodsden stopped a doorstep backhand bid right from MVU’s Elizabeth Laroche after the opening faceoff. A minute later T-Bird goalie Madison Conley held her ground when Tucker cut in from the right side.
Hodsden stopped Fresn a few minutes later before giving way to Deppman, who made 15 saves to complete the shutout, including key stops on Rory Schreindorfer and Fresn before MUHS took the game over.
The Tigers’ first goal came from Schnoor at the right point. Her shot, on a feed from Brush, found its way home through traffic at 12:05 in the second period. Fifteen seconds later Tucker controlled in the left corner and fed Mckenna Raymond cutting through the circle. Raymond moved through the slot and flicked the puck back inside the left post.
At 14:13 of the second frame Tucker made it 3-0. Raymond sent Tucker into the MVU zone along the boards. Tucker muscled past a defender, cut to goal and beat Conley high to the short side.
Schnoor capped the run at 1:42 of the third period. After taking a feed from Ryley Olsen, Schnoor fired a long wrist shot high into the right side.
The Tiger defense of Schnoor, Doria and Lily Finn — as well as checking by the forwards — protected Deppman well the rest of the way. Deppman also made a strong blocker stop on Karissa LeClair with five minutes left. Conley made 20 saves for MVU.
Brush was pleased with the Tigers’ better passing and teamwork as the game progressed.
“They started trusting each other a little bit more and making that extra pass. And in the second period we talked on the bench in the middle of the period that we’ve got to start working together, and five minutes later we’ve got two goals with assists,” he said.
Brush also believes the Tigers will have an enjoyable season.
“We have the right 13 kids,” he said. “They come to play every day. They have great attitudes, a great work ethic. They have real spirit. They feel fortunate they’re here, that they have an opportunity to play, and that they’re able to do this together.”