Men's hockey through to semifinals
The Middlebury College Panthers have dominated the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) men’s hockey world for the past 11 years. The playoff format was introduced in 2000, and Middlebury has played in every championship game since, winning eight titles. The rest of the NESCAC combines for just three.
Score a fourth for the rest of the NESCAC, and score one huge upset for Colby College this past Saturday.
The Mules, who are the sixth seed after starting the season 2-8-1, did what no other team has ever done before: they ended Middlebury’s season before the championship game. Colby accomplished this incredible feat on the back of their senior netminder, Cody McKinney.
McKinney, who earned the 40th victory of his career, made 37 saves and held the third-seeded Panthers to a lone goal. Colby took an early lead when assistant captain Dan Nelson ’12 ripped the twine just 3:52 into the game on a rebound from captain Billy Crinnion ’11. The goal was his fourth of the season and the only tally of the first period.
Chris Buonomo ’12 took a centering pass from senior Karl Burns and put it home at 6:33 of the second period to make the score 2-0. Middlebury goalie John Yancheck was then substituted out of the game in favor of Nick BonDurant after allowing two goals. McKinney continued to be the story of the game, though, as he stopped shot after shot, preserving the two-score lead. Colby fans could finally exhale when the second period ended with Middlebury leading 23-16 in shots, but still trailing 2-0 thanks to the effort of McKinney.
The Panthers continued to chase the Mules in the third as, once again, Colby found itself on its heals. Middlebury finally broke onto the score sheet at 6:24 of the third on a power play goal by Chaz Svoboda, who snuck a rebound past McKinney for his third goal of the year. BonDurant left for the bench with1:38 left to play, as Middlebury desperately tried to even the score, notching five shots on net.
However, McKinney was just too good, and Colby boarded the team bus for Mayflower Hill having pulled out a 2-1 playoff upset win over the Middlebury Panthers, despite being outshot 38-23.
The Mules will attempt to continue their winning ways next weekend when the team takes on rival Bowdoin College, who defeated Colby 3-2 and 6-5 this season, at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. on Saturday, March 5 at 4 p.m. If the Mules can avenge their regular season losses to the Polar Bears, they will play for the NESCAC championship on Sunday. It would be the first time Colby has earned a trip to the title game since the current system was implemented.
Tickets are five dollars for adults and three dollars for students. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the other semifinal. Webcast information can be found on the Colby athletics website.