With Middlebury freshman Mickey Gilchrist scoring his twenty-first goal of the season in the first period tonight, he has exceeded all-rookie goal scorers at Middlebury going back to records kept from the 64-65 season. The twenty-one goals beats the previous mark of twenty held by Marc Alcindor in 1989 in his rookie campaign for the Panthers. Gilchrist reminds many of another sniper from Canada, the recently graduated Kevin Cooper who ended his four-year career with ninety-nine career goals and one national championship.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to start my college career. I didn’t know anything about a record,” exclaimed the surprised Gilchrist following the title game in which he was credited with the game winning goal. “Knowing how good this team has been over the years I am surprised that I would be ahead in the goal scoring category. We don’t focus on those kinds of things here. We just try and go out and play our best and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Playing with Eric LaFreniere in place of Justin Gaines, who was injured in the semifinal win over NEC, Gilchrist took advantage of some hard work along the endboards by his linemate. “Eric had fought for the puck and got possession behind the goal so I just tried to find some open space in the slot where he could get it to me. Coach had told us that their goalie goes down early so look upstairs — when I go the puck I just tried to go high and it went in. It was huge to get the lead.”
Switching linemates is also nothing new for the Panther forwards. “We play with different people all of the time here,” Gilchrist said. “It starts in November when we learn and buy-in to Coach Beaney’s system. We all learn the responsibilities and then we all learn to play with each other.”
Clearly, Gilchrist and the other young forwards on the 2005 national champions have not only bought in to the system but continue to play it very well.
(Further research by the Middlebury College sports information department subsequent to the game revealed that the record is actually still intact. Tim Craig set the record with 23 goals in 1990. – Ed.)
With tonight’s national championship, the Panthers have now won seven titles in the past eleven seasons — a.636 winning percentage for just national championship appearances alone. The Panthers also boast an eleven consecutive year NCAA appearance streak which dates back to their first title won in their first appearance in 1995.
Tonight’s championship was the first ever won at Middlebury’s Chip Kenyon ’85 Arena by the Panthers. The Panthers have hosted at The Chip twice — first in 2000 where they lost a semifinal match-up with eventual champion, Norwich. Captain Brian Phinney, a Ripton, Vt. native, noted that winning the title at home was special for the fans who are so much a part of the team’s success. “They deserve to be part of it.”
Zero + Zero = Zero
Middlebury becomes the first team to defend its national championship by winning with consecutive championship game shutouts. In 2004, the Panthers defeated St. Norbert in overtime by a 1-0 score with senior Marc Scheuer posting the shutout. Middlebury matched the shutout with tonight’s 5-0 victory over St. Thomas. The shutout tonight is also the fourth shutout in the seven championship games won by the Panthers. Previous shutouts included the 1995 championship, 1-0 over Fredonia State; the 1999 championship, 5-0 over Wisconsin-Superior and the 2004 championship, 1-0 over St. Norbert.
Ross Cherry became the first freshman goalie since Norwich’s Mike Boudreau in 2003 to be the winning netminder in the championship game. Cherry finished the season with a 9-1-2 record and posted two shutouts in his three starts in the NCAA tournament. Cherry, who earlier in the season was told to “straighten things out off the ice or he wouldn’t get a chance to play” took his coach’s words to heart and backstopped the Panthers through a great second half of the season and great playoff run. “I don’t really think about too much during the game and try to play it in five minute increments in my head,” said Cherry. He attributes his success to the team in front of him and the solid play of his defensemen.
Assistant coach Chris LaPerle has the unique distinction of winning back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005. As a volunteer assistant coach last season with Denver University, LaPerle was part of the Pioneer D-I title run last Spring. As an assistant to Bill Beaney this season, LaPerle captured another title at the D-III level with the Panthers win tonight.
Men & Women Unite!
For the second year in a row, and on the same night, the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams won the national championship. Last year, the women won it all on home ice while the men captured the title at Norwich, host site of the 2004 tournament. This year, the men won at home, while the women become the first team in D-III to win on the host team’s home ice.