MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — A meeting between Middlebury and Norwich, rivals who divide the state of Vermont along battle lines, rarely needs subtext to produce an exciting game.
However, the fact that Tuesday’s meeting saw a top-ten fight between the number-one Panthers and the number-four Cadets was significant. Also, Middlebury was looking for revenge after a 5-1 loss to Norwich in its fourth game of the season, the Panthers’ only loss on the season.
Finally, the game was the second of a two-game season series of Middlebury-Norwich tilts to be shown on New England Sports Network, allowing the Division III athletes a rare chance in the television spotlight. In that light, Middlebury shined brightest, as Matt Dunn scored two goals, including the insurance tally at 7:50 of the third as the Panthers topped Norwich 3-1.
The first period saw great back-and-forth action, but it took a holding penalty to Norwich’s Paul Mattucci at 18:11 before either team got on the board. The Panther power play took just 20 seconds to convert for a 1-0 lead, as Dunn fed Kevin Cooper down low. Cooper, who had been buzzing the net all period, put the puck on Norwich goalie Kevin Schieve’s stick side and it found the back of the net, with assists going to Dunn and Ryan Constantine.
Just seconds later, Norwich nearly came back for the tie, as Tim Kyrkostas ripped a hard shot on Middlebury netminder Christian Carlsson’s glove side. Then, with just five seconds left in the period Cooper intercepted a weak clearing pass in the Norwich zone and blasted a shot on Schieve, to be met by the clang of the crossbar. The first period finished with Middlebury outshooting Norwich 14-6.
Just one minute into the second, Norwich again had a chance to tie the game, only to see the puck go off the post after it was past Carlsson. At 3:29 into the second period, Middlebury doubled its lead, as Dunn broke in on Schieve’s glove side, split two defenders and beat the goalie for a 2-0 margin (assists credited to Grayson Fertig and Mike Kennedy).
At 4:35, a Cadet was left alone in the slot, but Norwich was again unable to get on the board as the puck was fired hard but over the net and off the glass. Finally, at 7:10 of the second period, Norwich got on the board with a shot from the blue line by Kurtis McLean that came through a crowd and beat Carlsson cleanly on the glove side, bringing the game to a close 2-1 score.
Five minutes later Norwich thought it had tied the game, but the goal was called back as a Panther player driven into the net by a Cadet attacker had knocked the net off a split-second before the puck crossed the goal line.
In the third period, Carlsson continued his strong game with a beautiful save on a Cadet breakaway just one minute in.
The Panthers’ finished one for three on the power play, while Norwich went one for two when up a man. Middlebury outshot the Cadets 36-23, with Schieve making 33 stops and Carlsson saving 22.
Coming into the game, both Middlebury and Norwich had already clinched their respective regular-season conference titles, though the game counts in league standings for both as part of the interlocking schedule between the NESCAC and ECAC East.
Middlebury’s record moves to 17-0-1 in NESCAC league play and 21-1-1 overall, while Norwich now stands at 14-4 in the ECAC East and 20-4 overall.