Semifinal Notebook: Middlebury 5, New England College 2

Coming Up Short

New England College had staged some big comebacks in their Cinderella-esque post season run, but this one came up short. The Pilgrims never gave up, though.

“We battled right to the end,” said coach Tom Carroll. “Because of all the comebacks we’ve had, there was no doubt on the bench that we were going to come back until the final horn blew.

“Even when it was 2-2, I thought we were alright because we were right in the game and the game was even.”

… And Counting

Middlebury has now beaten New England 20 straight times dating back to the 1986-87 season when the Pilgrims defeated the Panthers 5-4 in overtime. It was the first time Middlebury coach Bill Beaney had faced his old team. Beaney, who coached at New England from 1977-1984 still holds the all-time coaching record for wins there with 86.

Pep Talk

When asked what he said to his team in between the second and third periods, Beaney joked, “I didn’t dare go into the locker room, because what was being said in there, I haven’t heard some of it before.

“It’s not about what I say or I do, it’s what they’re going to do, and they took it upon themselves to make a decision to get out of this, play hard and not let this be the last game. And that’s what happened.”

Middlebury captain Brian Phinney said, “We’ve figured out along the way to get ourselves back on track. We had a list of certain things we like to focus on, and we had to take our attention back to that. I think refocusing did it for us.”

Home Ice

While two of the Panthers’ six titles have come on home ice, they were won at the Nelson Arena. Middlebury has not won a title on home ice since moving to the Kenyon Arena in 1999. The Panthers have hosted once before at the Kenyon Arena, but lost in the semifinals to Norwich. The Panthers’ other titles came at Norwich (twice), Plattsburgh and Wisconsin-River Falls.

“It doesn’t make any difference what building we play in, it’s the chance to play for a national championship with the kind of guys we have on our team,” said Beaney. ” It’s going to be thrilling to play for it in front of our home crowd.”