MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The winter blizzard that postponed Middlebury’s game on Friday versus Amherst cleared out just in time to allow the Hamilton Continentals to travel north and lose in a battle against the No. 3 Panthers.
Marc Scheuer (8-1) made 10 saves to earn the shutout while Evgeny Saidachev chipped in with a goal and an assist as the Panthers won 3-0.
The score was closer than the game. The Panthers outshot the Continentals by a margin of 37-9.
In attendance were a number of former Middlebury players including Grove Nichols, who had nothing but praise about his former team as he reminisced about his days with the Panthers.
“Thirty-five years ago we didn’t move as fast. We didn’t [skate] as well as these guys, and their play overall is much better. Credit to Bill Beaney; these guys are incredibly well-coached and disciplined, and they play a great brand of hockey,” said Nichols.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Middlebury coach Beaney. “We had to battle to get the win.”
Only the strong play of junior goaltender Rob MacNeil (4-2-2), who made 34 saves, kept the game within reach for Hamilton.
“Robbie MacNeil kept that game close for us,” said Hamilton coach Phil Grady. “If we had played better we might have given ourselves an opportunity to win because he kept us in it.
The Panthers broke through MacNeil on the power play with 2:53 remaining in the first period. Freshman defenseman Brett Shirreffs skated straight down the slot untouched and fired a low shot passed the right pad of MacNeil to give Middlebury the 1-0 lead.
Scheuer kept the Panthers ahead as Mike Hayes fed Tom Ditzer for a deflection on a 3 on 1 early in the 2nd period. Scheuer had to move quickly to his left to make the low glove save.
The Panthers’ No. 1 defense stifled the Continentals’ offense.
“I’ve gotten used to not having too many shots against. One good chance is all they needed to make it 1-1. It’s important to prepare mentally for these games.” said Scheuer.
The ice seemed to be titled in favor of the Panthers for most of the game. Hamilton came off less than a day’s rest after battling Williams to a 1-1 tie Friday evening.
“We had played the night before and (the Panthers) were rested. They had a little more zip than we did, but our guys never quit,” said Grady.
John Dawson and Saidachev teamed up on numerous occasions for scoring opportunities. They finally converted with 3:14 left in the 2nd period. Dawson skated up the left-wing on a 2 on 1, and slipped a pass across to Saidachev, who had to chip it over MacNeil on his backhand to give Middlebury a 2-0 lead.
“Dawson made a great pass to (Saidachev) and he made a nice play to handle the puck and also get it over the goalie. That was a big time play,” said Beaney.
NESCAC leading point scorer Kevin Cooper continued to produce as Adam Foote fed Cooper alone in front of the net. Cooper waited for MacNeil to go down and slipped the puck past him for his 19th goal of the season and 3-0 Panthers lead.
Middlebury (16-2, NESCAC 11-2) will face Amherst on Sunday to make up Friday’s game, and Skidmore at home on Tuesday, while Hamilton (11-7-2, NESCAC, 11-4-2) continues its NESCAC schedule next weekend at home against Connecticut College and Tufts.