MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — In a game anticipated to be a close battle, Kevin Cooper scored his 79th career goal — tying the Middlebury career goals record — to help the No. 3 Panthers rout the No. 4 Plattsburgh State Cardinals by the score of 8-1.
Cooper’s second of the game, on the power play, put him in a tie with Mark Spence for the record. The puck squirted free to the side of the net before Cooper scored the landmark tally.
Said Cooper, “I’m just trying to help this team win. I want to win a championship. I haven’t won one yet, and that’s what we’re going for this year.”
Cooper had two goals and two assists, while Patrick Nugent tallied two goals as the Panthers scored six first-period goals on 16 shots.
“I thought we played with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of heart, and I was very pleased with how these guys came out to play tonight,” said Middlebury coach Bill Beaney.
The Panthers scored off the draw 35 seconds into the first period. Adam Foote fed Cooper for a breakaway, and Cooper, after nearly losing the puck, managed to slide it past Plattsburgh goalie Craig Neilson (8-4-2), who let in four goals on five shots.
Neilson was pulled after Foote came out of the corner and put one underneath him at 11:59 of the first period, giving the Panthers an early 4-0 lead.
“I don’t think our goalie played well. Goalies have to make saves early on to keep you in the game, especially when you’re on the road, but he didn’t stop them at all tonight,” Bob Emery said.
Backup goaltender Jason Vasco did not fare much better as he let in four goals on 18 shots. He was given a sour greeting by Patrick Nugent, who skated in from the right wing and wristed a shot low to the blocker side to give the Panthers a 5-0 lead.
Senior defenseman Mike Velez chipped in his first of the season and the eventual game-winner 7:15 into the first period after his shot from the slot was deflected in by a Cardinals’ stick.
“Everyone is going right now. Hopefully we can continue this and move forward,” said Cooper.
Yen-I Chen was in goal for the Panthers after a shaky performance against Colby allowed senior goaltender Marc Scheuer to step in for three solid victories, earning him NESCAC Player of the Week honors.
“I would like to see Marc and Yen-I battle it out down the line. That’s part of our philosophy to make each player better,” said coach Beaney.
Chen’s shutout bid was spoiled when Brett Gilmour’s shot was deflected home from the point 2:13 into the second period.
Middlebury (13-2-0, 8-2-0 NESCAC) will travel to UMass-Boston and Babson this weekend to continue conference play, while Plattsburgh (13-4-2, 7-0-1 SUNAC) will travel to Buffalo State and Fredonia in its SUNYAC schedule.