Tuesday, November 13th
MIDDLEBURY, VT --- One goal, that's all that stood between the Middlebury College hockey team and a fourth straight national championship.
The Panthers lost to Oswego, 4-3 in overtime in the NCAA finals last March, snapping their title streak at three. That means there's no drive for five this year, but the team carries the memory of that loss as extra motivation for the season ahead.
"All of us who are returning this year definitely remember that loss in Wisconsin last year, and I think we're that much hungrier this year go really get after it.", says Middlebury captain Mickey Gilchrist.
"A lot of guys realize that and realize how close we were and how much work it took to get there. So I think we just have to keep working that hard and hopefully we'll be back.", adds Panther forward Jaime McKenna.
Middlebury returns a loaded squad, including their two leading scorers, senior co-captains Mickey Gilchrist and Tom Maldonado. In fact, six of their top ten scorers are back, which means plenty of depth for the Panthers and plenty of headaches for their opponents.
"We have a lot of guys coming back who know Middlebury hockey and what we hold high in terms of coming up for next season.", says Maldonado.
The Panthers should be just as deep and strong between the pipes. Middlebury returns both senior goaltender Ross Cherry and junior Doug Raeder. The duo have combined to win 54 games in their Panther careers."
"It's just fortunate to have both of them.", says head coach Bill Beaney. "Especially when you play two games in less than 24 hours on a weekend, which we do pretty much all season long. It allows that one guy to be able to focus on his game."
With depth and experience all across the board, Middlebury is primed to make another run deep into the postseason.
"Having lost that final game, I think it makes this year that much more enjoyable if you will. Because there's renewed enthusiasm to see if we can't get back and take one step further.", says Beaney.
The puck drops Friday when the Panthers open their season at Connecticut College.
--- Mike McCune
PO Box 4508