MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The Middlebury Panthers’ power-play efficiency may have been seventh in the conference, but it came alive just in time — twice, with goals by Patrick Nugent and Kevin Cooper to seal a 3-1 win over Hobart in the de facto title game of Middlebury’s Holiday Classic.
After Hobart and Middlebury each defeated a struggling Trinity in their first games of the tournament, the final game of the round-robin turned into the championship.
Early in the first period the Panthers offense took it to the Statesmen, but the strong play of junior goaltender Adam Lavelle kept the game scoreless.
The Panthers finally broke through on the power play at 7:39 of the first period when Tim Graham fired a cross-ice pass to Nugent, who one-timed it past the sprawling Lavelle for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 Middlebury lead.
Time ticked by slowly, until midway through the second period when Brian Phinney fired a shot on Lavelle, who lost control of the puck in front of his net. Cooper followed up on the play with several whacks at the puck in front, and only the glove of Lavelle kept the Statesmen within one.
The Statesmen did tally 5:18 into the third when Matthew Garman skated into the zone and fired a shot that bounced directly back to Adam Scott, who took advantage of his luck and banged one pass a screened Marc Scheuer for the first goal of his career.
After the goal, the stunned crowd watched as Mike Velez took a minor penalty for holding the stick, but the Panthers successfully killed the power play.
Middlebury found its fortunes once again on their its power play of the evening. Andrew Helming’s shot from the point deflected directly to Cooper, camped on the side of the goal line, and he cashed in on the open net for his team-leading fifth goal of the season, the game winner.
Jeff Smith capped the scoring to give the Panthers the championship.
Lavelle made 23 saves in the losing effort, while Scheuer made 16 saves in his second win of the season.
With the win, the Panthers move to 6-1-0 overall, while the Statesmen drop to 5-4-3.