MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Central Vermont may seem like an unlikely source for proven hockey players, but that is certainly not the case considering Middlebury has two such members leading them into championship weekend.
Captain Brian Phinney and alternate captain Levi Doria both hail from nearby Ripton, Vt., just over eight miles southeast of Middlebury.
Phinney and Doria have been fans of Middlebury ever since they were young and grew up only yards away from one another.
“Driving on the main road, we are about 60 seconds from each other, and there is a path through the woods that takes about 10 seconds,” said Phinney.
Not only did they live near one another, but they grew up playing with one another from the age of five. “We have known each other all of our lives, and have been playing hockey together since mites,” Doria explained.
Now the boys of Ripton have grown up, and developed into not just playoff performers, but team leaders. Last year Doria snapped the game winning shot against Norwich that sent Middlebury into the national championship game. This year, Phinney was the catalyst for the Panthers 3-2 win over Bowdoin in the NESCAC championship game, scoring two goals and adding an assist.
The duo’s effort has helped grant Middlebury the right to host at Kenyon Arena at Middlebury. Despite the pressure of hosting, both are very excited about hosting the championship tournament.
“I love hosting the tournament,” said Doria. “Some feel that it adds distractions or pressure to the games, but I haven’t ever really felt that way. We are playing for a national championship. There is going to be pressure no matter where you play.”
“It is always nice to be at home, because it gives our families a chance to see us play,” added Phinney. “At this point, all we can be thinking about are the things we can control, and that stuff occurs on the ice. It does not matter where the sheet of ice is, because, execution-wise, our goals are still the same. ”
If Phinney and Doria bring home a championship for the Panthers, it will be the first local duo to achieve such a feat as captains of Middlebury.