MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — In a matchup between second-ranked Middlebury and sixth-ranked Plattsburgh State, the Panthers helped heal the wounds of losses in the NCAA quarterfinals the past two years with a 3-2 win in front of a regular-season record crowd of 2,526 in Middlebury’s Kenyon Arena.
The meeting of these hated rivals, who entered the game with the all-time series tied 9-9-2 and have met 10 times in the past four years, was physical and hard-fought.
The match opened up with a power play for each team in the first six minutes, yet in a period that saw Middlebury fire only five shots and Plattsburgh only seven, neither team converted with the extra man. While on the penalty kill the Panthers’ Matt Dunn missed a shorthanded attempt right in front of the net, and seconds later Middlebury netminder Christian Carlsson stoned Plattsburgh’s attack to keep the game scoreless.
At 8:24 into the first, Middlebury broke through as Andrew Helming dropped a pass to John Dawson, who skated in on Plattsburgh goalie Niklas Sundberg’s glove side and put the puck in the back of the net.
Carlsson, who stood on his head at times during the game, again stopped a Plattsburgh breakaway with 3:15 left, but then at 17:47 after Plattsburgh’s Jeff Marshall hit the post and a Mark Cole shot was blocked by a Panther in the slot, Rob Retter banged home a shot to tie the game.
Just 35 seconds later, Middlebury regained the lead on a beautiful play by defenseman Dave Greiner. Greiner took the puck deep in the Middlebury zone and sent a hard pass up the center of the ice through the neutral zone to Kevin Cooper, who was behind the Cardinal defense. Cooper skated in on Sundberg and cleanly beat him for a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.
The second period featured back and forth play but no scoring, as both teams battled for the puck in the neutral zone and in the corners but put few shots on net. Sundberg put the two goals of the first period behind him and stood tall in the net, and Carlsson returned the favor at the other end of the ice with several solid saves on close shots and rebounds.
The third period saw Plattsburgh begin to win the territorial battle, with an unusually high number of Middlebury icings to clear the puck out of the zone. Yet the Panthers took advantage of a defensive miscue just over six minutes into the period to widen the lead to 3-1.
J.F. Duchesne stole the puck as a Plattsburgh defender attempted to bring it out of the Cardinals’ zone and passed it to Andrei Makarov, who had been trailing the play but now found himself with only Sundberg to beat. Makarov got Sundberg to commit to going down and then deked to the goalie’s stick side before slipping the puck past the outstretched netminder.
The Cardinals sent their visiting fans into a frenzy when they pulled to within one on a power-play goal with five minutes left in the game. Brendon Hodge kept the puck in the Middlebury zone and passed to Jeff Hopkins. Hopkins sent the puck across the slot to Adam Richards, who put it into the upper corner of the net to make it a 3-2 Middlebury lead.
Over the last five minutes, Carlsson stood on his head several more times to preserve the win, including with the Cardinals shorthanded and Sundberg out of the net.
On the night, Plattsburgh outshot Middlebury 31-15, with the Cardinals going one for six on the power play and the Panthers failing to convert on four opportunities. Middlebury’s record improves to 6-1, while Plattsburgh drops to 7-4 after its fourth straight loss to a nonconference opponent.