MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The Panthers played host to the Lord Jeffs on a rare Saturday Night Game at Kenyon Arena and howed why they are leading the country in team defense with a 1.29 goals against average. Yen-I Chen helped shutout Amherst 5-0 while making 22 saves, sending the Panthers into semester break with an undefeated record.
“We didn’t want Yen-I to lose that shutout. He really worked for it, and earned it,” said Jocko DeCarolis, who scored his first two goals as a Panther in the game, including the game winner.
Amherst (4-2-2, NESCAC 2-0-2) was coming off a stunning 5-5 tie with No. 3 Norwich this past weekend, but was unable to handle the speed and puck control of Middlebury (6-0-1, NESCAC 4-0-0) who outshot Amherst by a 41-22 margin.
“We didn’t handle their speed very well. We tried to do everything quicker than we needed to,” admitted Amherst head coach Jack Arena.
Amherst came out strong in the first period taking it to the Panthers early. The shots were even at 12 after the first period, but the score was not as the Panthers were able to fire three goals past Amherst’s Josh Fillman.
Chen kept Middlebury and Amherst tied at zero early in the first after Amherst came out strong following a four game undefeated streak
DeCarolis got Middlebury on the board at 6:26 of the first period after Mickey Gilchrist fired a shot from the slot. DeCarolis picked up the rebound and fired it home to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers followed up their first goal at 10:48 of the first period. The puck slid out of the Panthers’ defensive zone into Amherst’s zone. Shady Young won the four man foot race and fired a slap shot over the blocker of Fillman to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers finished their first period barrage with 3:15 left in the first period off aspectacular feed from Gilchrist. Eric LaFreniere busted to the net and Gilchrist fed him for a pass that LaFreniere deflected in on the backhand.
“Offensively we did great,” said DeCarolis. “We’ve got a lot of talent; a lot of young guys who are stepping up, and playing real well.”
The game was fairly uneventful until the third period rolled around when the frustration of Amherst set in. The Lord Jeffs began throwing their weight around, with the biggest blow coming at 10:12 of the third period. Middlebury freshmen Tom Maldonado received a pass in the defensive zone and got blind sided by a high hit from Brandon Zangel. Maldonado remained motionless for a few seconds, but returned to the game later. Zangel received a five-minute major for charging and the Middlebury bench was up in arms. Patrick Nugent received a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct for yapping at Zangel following the hit.
The chippy play continued as Gilchrist and Mike McIntosh were sent to the box late in the period for hitting after the whistle.
“I thought the [rough play] in the third period was too bad. I thought some of the Amherst guys got a little bit frustrated, and we weren’t going to step back from it. Unfortunately, the sticks got a little bit high, and there’s no place for that in hockey,” said Middlebury head coach Bill Beaney.
The Panthers got the last laugh though. Alternate captain Levi Doria scored immediately off the draw after Gilchrist and McIntosh went to the box. Doria grabbed the puck off the face-off, deked to his backhand and slid it through Fillman’s five-hole for his first goal of the season.
DeCarolis rounded out the scoring with his second goal of the game just 34 seconds later. Hunt came streaking into the offensive zone with an Amherst defender riding his back. He drew the defender behind the goal line, and slid the puck back to DeCarolis who was trialing the play, for an easy tap in goal.
“Overall I am very pleased and excited about what Yen-I has been doing in goal. I’m excited that we could keep the shutout. Some of the young guys scoring goals is a positive, as well as [veteran] guys like Levi Doria scoring,” said Beaney.
Tonight’s game was scheduled as a non-conference game, and will not count towards each team’s conference records. They will play their conference game at Amherst in February. Next up for Middlebury is its Holiday Classic on Jan. 1 and 2 where it will take on Skidmore and the US under 18 team. Amherst will travel to Trinity and Wesleyan to continue its conference schedule.