MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The battle between the past two NESCAC champions and finalists was no less exciting than expected. However, the roles this time were reversed. Middlebury came into the game as the underdog as they sat tied for second in the NESCAC standings, while Trinity came in as the favorite sitting atop the NESCAC standings.
The teams battled to a 4-4 tie as Middlebury came roaring back from three goals down to tie it late in the third. The tie clinched Trinity its first regular-season NESCAC title.
The game looked as if it was all but over. However, after Trinity took 3-0 lead, discipline problems took hold of Trinity allowing the Panthers to climb back into the game.
“I thought we had the game under control until we took a dumb penalty compounded with another penalty,” said Trinity head coach John Dunham.
Trinity’s dumb penalty was taken at 10:20 of the second period by Bantam’s leading scorer Cameron Finch who appeared to argue with the referees about Middlebury intentionally knocking off their net while Trinity was threatening.
Only 48 seconds later Trinity defenseman Andris Kozlovskis was called for cross-checking giving the Panthers the break they needed.
Trinity leads the league in penalty minutes per game with 23.75
On the ensuing 5 on 3 freshman Tom Maldonado slid the puck over to fellow freshman Mickey Gilchrist who fired a shot right under the crossbar on Doug Kisielius’ to cut Trinity’s lead to 3-1.
“I don’t think I have a very good shot, so I’m always looking for someone, and usually that someone is Mickey,” said Maldonado
Just 1:16 later on the power play Maldonado was at it again, drawing two players at the left point before dishing the puck to Brian Phinney. Phinney fired a shot that was deflected in front by Gilchrist getting the Panthers within one.
Neither the Panthers nor Maldonado was done yet. With 2:56 remaining Maldonado came streaking down the left wing before he fed a perfect backhand pass to DeCarolis who buried his third goal of the season.
“The thing with Maldonado is that he draws guys to him so well, and when he dishes it off we have all the time in the world to shoot,” said Gilchrist.
The Panthers quickly lost the momentum as Greg Camarco sprang Joseph Ori on a breakaway who made a nifty move and slid the puck through the pads of Ross Cherry to give the Bantams a 4-3 lead with only 2:16 left in the second period.
Ross Cherry replaced Yen-I Chen after Chen looked shaky giving up two goals in the first period.
Despite being down, the Panthers dominated play throughout the third period finally getting the equalizer with 2:58 left in the third period. Justin Gaines was able to chip a puck in front of Kisielius towards the direction of the net and Gilchrist was able to jam it home for his first hat trick of the season.
The last two periods of the game was probably some of the best hockey we played all year,” explained Middlebury head coach Bill Beaney. “We played with enthusiasm and intensity.
This past weekend, Beaney has been putting out units of five, and the unit of Phinney, Maldonado, Gaines, Gilchrist and Sales accounted for three goals and six assists.
“We definitely came out well as a unit. I don’t think any team can handle us when we play like that,” commented Gilchrist.
Gilchrist now leads the Panthers in goals with 14, while Maldonado as the team lead in points with 23 points and 19 assists.
Trinity got things started off at 10:15 of the first period as John Newhall fed Simon Dionne for his fifth goal of the season.
Defenseman Brendan Timmins put the Bantams up by two with 4:36 remaining in the first period with his fourth goal of the season.
The Bantams took a three goal lead 8:47 into the second on Bryan Crabtree’s ninth of the season.
Middlebury (15-4-3, NESCAC 11-4-2) travel to St. Michael’s and Norwich next week to finish off their league play, while Trinity (17-2-2, NESCAC 13-2-2) does the same at Tufts and Connecticut College.