By Mike Zhe
Winter always seems to arrive a little earlier in Vermont, especially if you’re a hockey fan.
On Saturday, it arrived with fireworks.
Ultimately, it was Norwich defending its home turf, coming back from two goals down in the third period to defeat Middlebury, 5-4, in the finals of the PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout. Colin Mulvey (Worcester, Mass.) scored the tying and game-winning goals in the final 4:12, the latter coming with 6.7 seconds left in regulation.
The second-ranked Cadets (7-0) skated off with the title for the eighth time in 15 years, but both teams could take something away from the weekend at Kreitzberg Arena.
For Middlebury, which got outshot 30-23 and burned for a pair of power-play goals, it got returns from its youth.
Forward Evan Neugold (Goshen, Conn.), one of five freshmen in the Panthers’ lineup, was named to the All-Tournament team after collecting points against Norwich and in his team’s 3-2 semifinal win over No. 4 Plattsburgh a night earlier. Matt Silicoff, who scored twice on Saturday, was named the tourney’s top rookie.
The Panthers (2-1-1) already own a 4-4 tie at No. 10 Bowdoin, the win over Plattsburgh and now this near miss, good indications that they can play in hostile environments against some of the better teams in Division 3.
For Norwich, it was another nod toward becoming the balanced attack it wants to be.
In a tight semifinal against No. 12 St. Thomas on Friday, the Cadets took a 3-2 win when Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) potted a pass from linemate Pier-Olivier Cotnoir with four minutes to go in regulation.
While known quantities Cotnoir (7-3-10), Thomas (3-5-8) and junior Travis Janke (2-9-11) are all averaging better than a point a game, it’s Mulvey (7-6-13) who’s enjoying a breakout senior season after collecting 40 points in his first three years combined. He was named tournament MVP.
And the Vermont circle continues.
Last year, it was Castleton State thumping its chest and trying to knock Norwich off its perch in ECAC East, losing a pair of tight games in the regular season but then getting blasted, 11-1, in the ECAC East championship.
This year, there looks to be another in-state challenger. The Cadets visit Middlebury on Jan. 8. But after Saturday’s tilt, Vermonters don’t have to wait any longer before saying these words:
Welcome to winter.
Player of the
Ollie Koo, F, Bowdoin
The junior from Greenwich, Conn., leads NESCAC with 10 points after racking up eight points for the Polar Bears in three games last week, all wins.
Koocollected two assists in a 4-2 win at the University of New England and a 6-5 victory over Salve Regina. He scored three power-play goals in a 5-2 triumph over Suffolk on Sunday.
Game of the
Salem State at Plymouth State, Thursday, 6 p.m.
The Vikings (2-1-1, 1-0-1 MASCAC) return to Hanaway Rink for the first time since suffering a 5-4 overtime loss to Plymouth in the MASCAC championship game last winter.
This will be the first game for the Panthers (3-1, 1-1 MASCAC) since a 2-1 win at Wentworth on Nov. 19.
New England Division 3 power rankings
1. Norwich (7-0, 5-0 ECAC East)
Forward Tory Allan and freshman defenseman Erik Lyrvall joined Mulvey on the PrimeLink All-Tournament team.
2. Bowdoin (4-0-1, 1-0-1 NESCAC)
Nice start for Polar Bears, who have rival Colby in a home-and-home this weekend. Saturday’s game in Waterville, Maine, is their first of six straight on the road.
3. Amherst (3-1-1, 2-0 NESCAC)
Jeffs nearly rallied for win at Utica on Saturday, after giving up three goals in the opening eight minutes of a 4-3 loss.
4. Plymouth State (3-1, 1-1 MASCAC)
Thursday’s game against Salem State kicks off a stretch that will see the Panthers play four league foes in a 10-day span.
5. Middlebury (2-1-1, 1-0-1 NESCAC)
Beating Plattsburgh and taking host Norwich to the wire in the PrimeLink serves more notice that Panthers are for real.
6. Western New England (4-2, 3-0 ECAC Northeast)
Goalie Eric Sorenson (37 saves) did what he could to give Bears a chance in 3-2 loss to Manhattanville last week.
7. Wentworth (4-2-1, 2-1 ECAC Northeast)
Home game against Nichols Thursday will be first action in 10 days for the Leopards.
8. Trinity (3-0-1, 1-0-1 NESCAC)
Senior captain Zachary Lombardi struck for three goals as Bantams dispatched Stonehill (4-2) and SUNY-Canton (5-0) over the weekend.
9. New England College (4-2-1, 3-2-1 ECAC East)
Two-week stretch without a game ends Saturday when Pilgrims visit in-state rival St. Anselm.
10. Westfield State (6-1, 3-0 MASCAC)
Last Tuesday’s 6-0 loss at Amherst was a reality check, but games against league rivals UMass-Dartmouth (Thursday) and Salem State (Saturday) could tell us if Owls are leaning more toward MASCAC contenders or pretenders.
Mike Zhe can be reached at email@example.com.