Panther hockey team bounces back

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MIDDLEBURY — Two weekends ago, the Middlebury College men’s hockey team squandered a two-goal, third-period lead in a 7-4 defeat at New England College and suffered an embarrassing 4-0 loss at St. Anselm the next day.

Those setbacks, coupled with a couple other meltdowns, prompted the team to gather for an impromptu meeting when it returned to Middlebury. And while the players didn’t elaborate on the discussions they had behind closed doors, it’s safe to say it provided a necessary spark.

The Panthers have won three straight since that dreadful weekend in New Hampshire, their 5-3 pasting of No. 5 Plattsburgh on Tuesday night at Kenyon Arena serving notice that they have turned a corner.

“It was a wake-up call,” Middlebury junior forward Ken Suchoski said about the slide against NEC and St. Anselm.

Plattsburgh cut Middlebury’s lead to 3-2 with a goal in the opening minutes of the third period. Instead of wilting, like they had when surrendering five late goals to New England College, the Panthers stayed on the attack.

“There was a really good spirit on the bench which hasn’t been as consistent as would have liked this year, especially in the third period when they made it 3-2,” Beaney said.  “We’ve had a history this year of tightening up this year when it gets close in the third period and I thought our guys responded really well.

“I think they took a hard look at themselves,” Beaney said about the meeting. “We got together and said the coaching staff believes in you, you believe in each other; lets just got out, play hard and know we are going to make mistakes but we are going to get better. We are such a young team and developing a personality. We just didn’t want our personality to be one where we fold whenever it gets tight in the end.”

The reborn Panthers (10-3-4), ranked 10th in the nation, don’t have much time to celebrate their recent success, not with No. 2 Norwich coming to town on Friday for one of the fiercest rivalries in college hockey.

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