MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — If Middlebury has had one problem this year, it is their failure to put away teams, and to allow teams to crawl back into the game. The Panthers solved that problem tonight, scoring three early goals on their way to a 6-0 victory over Wesleyan as the newly joined freshmen connection of Mickey Gilchrist and Justin Gaines combined for three goals and two assists.
Last weekend the Panthers twice allowed teams they were up on to get back into the game. Against Amherst they took an early 3-0 lead and ended up winning 3-2. The following day Middlebury took a 2-1 lead in the second period only to lose 3-2 to Hamilton. Tonight was a different story, with Middlebury refusing to let Wesleyan back into the game.
After failing to score more than four goals in a game in over a month, the Panthers peppered Wesleyan’s goaltender Steve Binswanger with 17 first period shots and three goals. Middlebury head coach was particularly pleased with team’s goal outburst stating, “It’s nice to see we scored some goals. It’s been a while since we scored so many goals.”
Gilchrist started off the scoring for the Panthers at 4:01 of the first period after Gaines drew two defenders to him along the right wing boards. Gaines fed Gilchrist who fired a shot over the glove of Binswanger for his tenth goal of the season.
Gilchrist helped Gaines score his fourth goal of the game by throwing the puck on net at 3:11 of the third period. Gaines picked up the loose puck and stuffed it home to give the Panthers a 5-0 lead.
“It was our first game playing together,” indicated Gilchrist about his tandem with Gaines. “We had a good week of practice, and it seemed to work out all right.
The Panthers continued their barrage of first period goals at 7:04 on the power play. Some nifty neutral zone passing between Levi Doria and Tim Graham led to Graham finding Jed McDonald wide open in the slot for quick one-timer that Binswanger had no chance on giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Middlebury finished off their first period scoring with 8:34 remaining in the first period as Graham was able to cash home on a rebound for his eight goal of the season.
It feels good for a team to come out and start connecting like that,” said Gilchrist. “It’s a big part of our game. We’re a pretty good transition team. The forwards and defensemen were flying.
Coupled with Middlebury’s barrage of shots totaling 34, the Cardinal’s lack of offense made the victory seem easy for the Panthers. Wesleyan could only muster a mere nine shots, with many coming from the outside.
Middlebury’s goaltender Yen-I Chen made his best save of the night only moments after the Panthers scored the first goal. Jarred Gagnon came streaking in on a breakaway, but Chen was able to stop Gagnon’s backhand shot to preserve the Middlebury lead.
Seniors Graham and Doria connected with fellow senior Patrick Nugent for his seventh goal of the season with 1:14 left in the second period for a 4-0 Panthers lead. The goal was especially exciting because recently the numbers of all of the seniors were painted on the ice in Middlebury’s first period defensive end.
Gilchrist rounded out the game’s scoring at 9:43 of the third period on the power play, to raise his team leading goal total to eleven.
Guys made some nice plays, and as a result, it was probably one of our better efforts in a while not because we scored so many goals, but because people were thinking and making good decisions,” said Beaney.
Middlebury (15-4-2, NESCAC 11-4-1) will take on NESCAC leader Trinity at home tomorrow, while Wesleyan (4-16-1, NESCAC 4-11-1) will travel to their “Little Three” rival Williams.