MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Midway through the second period of the second NCAA Semifinal game, it looked like Norwich was going to romp all over Middlebury. But the Panthers came charging back with two goals in the third to make it a close contest. However, Norwich scored an empty net goal in the waning seconds to complete the 5-2 victory.
Norwich scored just 31 seconds in to the game, and put Middlebury back on its heels right from the start.
“I don’t think we came out to play,” said Middlebury coach Bill Beaney. “It is disappointing that it happened that way. We were out coached, and we were outplayed, and the better team won.”
“We came out with great jump and tenacity right off the bat,” said Norwich coach Mike McShane. “The first forecheck really got in there and went right to the net.”
Middlebury got the shot in the arm that they needed just 13 seconds in to the third period off the stick of Robert Chisholm. Chisholm carried the puck deep in to the Norwich zone. As he reached the bottom of the left faceoff circle, he got off a weak shot. The puck rolled off the toe of his stick and fooled Schieve as it trickled through his five hole in to the back of the net.
“That goal gave us a glimmer of hope,” said Beaney. “It encouraged people to keep pushing.”
The Panthers maintained the pressure in the Norwich zone. McShane finally used his timeout 8:23 in to the third period to settle the Cadets down, and give them a break from the pressure. The move worked, and Norwich was able to even the keel of the ship and breakout a little better from its own zone.
“In our zone, we were struggling a little bit in the third period,” said Norwich captain Keith Maurice.
Middlebury pulled closer 10:41 in to the period. After a scrum in the corner, Panther Andy Helming came away with the puck and skated towards the goal. Helming ripped the puck past Norwich netminder Kevin Schieve, who never even moved, for the goal.
This got the highly partisan Middlebury crowd back in to the game and Kenyon Arena was rocking.
“That often times happens in a game when a team is ahead by a fairly comfortable number,” said Beaney. “Our players felt like they didn’t have anything to lose, and we wanted to go out playing as hard as we could.”
It was end-to-end action following Middlebury’s second goal. The Panthers kept pinching in, throwing everything at the Cadets’ net to tie the game. Norwich kept looking for the long breakout pass to take advantage of the deep Panther players. Panther goaltender Christian Carlsson had to come up with a couple of huge saves to keep Norwich off the board and give Middlebury a chance of coming back.
Beaney pulled his goalie with 2:49 remaining in the game. The Panthers gave it everything they had, but Norwich’s Mario Chinelli scored an empty-netter with 19 seconds remaining to seal the 5-2 victory.
Even though Middlebury was killing a penalty to open the second period, the Panthers were flying on the ice, and got a good 2-on-1 chance that just whistled wide of the net. The Panthers continued to carry play once they returned to full strength. Norwich didn’t get its first shot until 5:34 in to the period, while Middlebury had already had two good scoring chances by that time in the period.
Norwich’s third goal was a sweet setup that Matt Schmidt finished 8:37 in to the second period on the powerplay. Phil Aucoin passed to Vadim Beliaev towards the bottom of the right faceoff circle. Beliaev backhanded the puck to Matt Schmidt who was alone in the low slot, and Schmidt just steered the puck around Carlsson for the goal.
Life got worse for Middlebury midway through the second stanza. Panther Matt Dunn cross-checked Cadet Keith Maurice and the referees doled out a 5-minute major to Dunn for the infraction. It was looking grim for the Panthers.
Norwich converted almost four minutes in to the powerplay to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Boudreau chipped in the rebound off of a Mario Chinelli shot at the 13:34 mark. Norwich converted three of six powerplays during the game.
“To get up 4-0 against the No. 1 ranked team in the nation was huge,” said McShane. “We have been working with the same powerplay unit for the last few weeks.”
For the second period in a row, Middlebury was able to put pressure on the Norwich net during the last few minutes. But Schieve and the Norwich defense had an answer for everything the Panthers could do and the period ended with a comfortable 4-0 lead for the Cadets
Norwich struck quickly to take a 1-0 lead. Ed Boudreau carried the puck in to the Middlebury zone along the left boards. As he crossed the blue line, Panther Grayson Fertig tried to pinch Boudreau against the boards. But Boudreau snuck past Fertig and broke in to the zone unmarked.
“We came out and just got beat to pucks in the first period,” said Middlebury captain Ryan Constantine. “We got out-worked and out-played. They played with a good forecheck and just beat us.”
Boudreau skated down the left board, and curled towards the net just before he reached the endline. Carlsson hugged the post, but Boudreau found a sliver of daylight and slid the puck past Carlsson in to the net to give the Cadets the important early lead.
“You really want to get the first one when you are playing in someone else’s barn,” said Boudreau.
Almost immediately after the goal, Norwich rushed in to the Panther zone again. And the defense had trouble handling the Cadet rush again, but this time Middlebury came away unscathed.
Norwich’s Tim Kyrkostas got tagged with a hitting from behind penalty just over four minutes in to the first period, and Middlebury was able to even out the momentum.
However, Middlebury gave the advantage right back to Norwich only two minutes later. Panther Andrew Helming took an undisciplined cross-checking penalty right in front of the Norwich goal. The Cadets converted on the ensuing powerplay to take a commanding 2-0 first period lead less than ten minutes in to the contest.
After setting up in the Middlebury zone, Matt Schmidt rotated the puck up to Kurtis Mclean at the top of the slot. Mclean sent a slapshot along the ice straight down the slot. Carlsson went down to make the save, but Phil Aucoin deflected the shot from the hash marks and it sailed over Carlsson’s shoulder in to the top of the net.
The second goal heavily tilted the ice in Norwich’s favor, and the Cadets swarmed around the Middlebury zone.
“We just came prepared,” said Norwich freshman Vadim Beliaev. “The game started yesterday when we got to Burlington and unpacked.”
The scoreboard could have been worse from Middlebury’s perspective. Norwich had a goal waved off at the 15:14 mark, as Dominick Dawes used a high stick to deflect the puck in to the net.
Middlebury wasn’t about to just roll over and hand the game to the Norwich freshmen, though. The Panthers kept working and poured the pressure on to Schieve during the last four minutes of the period.
The Panthers’ best scoring chance came at 16:40 in to the period. Matt Dunn intercepted a clearing pass from Schieve at the top of the right faceoff circle. Dunn skated towards the net, and dished off to Kevin Cooper. Cooper ran out of real estate and couldn’t get a good shot off before he coasted past the edge of the net.