MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's ice hockey team returned to action for the first time in 21 days with a 4-0 loss to Middlebury College during the first round of the Middlebury Holiday Classic on Saturday in Kenyon Arena. The Purple Knights, who are competing in the Panthers' holiday tournament for the third time in five years, slipped to 5-5-1, while Middlebury is 2-7. Saint Michael's will take on Neumann (Pa.) University on Sunday in the consolation game at 1 p.m.
Junior Chris Johnson (Duxbury, Mass./Pomfret School) made 26 saves for the visitors. Classmate Sam D'Antuono (Hingham, Mass./Dexter School) went 7-for-14 on faceoffs, and first-year Niall Foster (Newmarket, N.H./Walpole Express) also split with a 5-of-10 performance. Senior Nathan Foice (Essex, Vt./The Winchendon School) and junior Patrick Doherty (Tewksbury, Mass./Middlesex Black Bears) both blocked a pair of shots.
Senior David Belluche and sophomores Danny Tighe and Trevor Turnbull all posted a goal and an assist for Middlebury, and sophomore Owen Powers also scored. Senior Stephen Klein had 31 stops.
Saint Michael's held a 9-5 advantage in shots during the first period, aided greatly by going on the power play at 2:20 before earning a two-man edge 1:14 later, but first-years Noah Muller (Amsterdam, The Netherlands/Düsseldorfer EG) and Andrew Olevitz (Winthrop, Mass./Northern Cyclones) had shots stopped with their team up a man. Just 17 seconds into the second period, Belluche hit the post near the end of a 4-on-3 Panther power play before he assisted Powers' winner at 56 seconds. After Johnson kicked a Powers shot to the left circle, Belluche passed to the crease for Powers, who skated behind the net and wrapped a shot inside the right post.
The hosts held a slim 16-14 edge in shots during the second stanza, eventually doubling their lead at 13:22. A failed clear by the Purple Knights led to sophomore Mitchell Allen collecting a loose puck in the left corner and passing out to the blue line, where Belluche ripped a shot into the right side of the net.
In a 2-0 game, first-year Cam Stewart (Sabattus, Maine/East Coast Wizards) and Olevitz had back-to-back bids denied around 5:12 of the third period, and the visitors were unable to get a shot on net during a power play that started at 7:43. The Panthers padded their lead with two goals 4:23 apart later in the frame. After Johnson stopped a puck behind his own net, Turnbull snuck between two Purple Knights and slid a pass back out front for Tighe, who tapped the puck in at 11:20 while rushing the net. Tighe later led an odd-man rush through the left circle, and his cross-crease pass found Turnbull, who knocked in a one-timer at the right post at 15:43.
Saint Michael's nearly broke the shutout in the waning seconds, but first-years Sel Narby (Huntington, N.Y./Connecticut Junior Rangers) and Ethan Hendrickson (Budd Lake, N.J./New Jersey Rockets) saw back-to-back shots around 19:45 denied on standout saves from Klein.