Fast Start Sparks Middlebury Past Tufts

Stephen Klein boasted a 37-save shutout against Tufts.
Stephen Klein boasted a 37-save shutout against Tufts.

The Middlebury men's hockey team scored twice in the first period and received 37 saves from goalie Stephen Klein, as the Panthers (1-5-0, 1-3-0) netted a 2-0 NESCAC victory Saturday at Tufts (1-5-1, 0-3-1). Middlebury continues conference play Friday, with a road contest at Hamilton.

The visitors got the early jump on the Jumbos, scoring just 43 seconds into the game. Vincent Gisonti crashed the net for a rebound with the end result being his initial goal of the season. The Panthers extended the lead to 2-0 later in the stanza, netting a shorthanded goal with 7:30 on the clock. Alex Heinritz pounced on a turnover in the neutral zone, before setting up Jimmy McKee for a one-timer for his first goal of the season. The assist was Heinritz's first point as a Panther.

Middlebury's defense protected the lead through a scoreless second period. The Panthers had a very effective penalty kill, allowing only one shot on goal, while minutes later Klein made key back-to-back saves on shots by Tufts' Craig Uyeno and Charley Borek. The Panther goalie was steady all period, turning back all 14 shots taken by the Jumbos.

In the final 20 minutes, the teams traded chances just before the midway mark as Mason Babbidge first fired a shot as he cut across the slot that Klein denied. Less than a minute later, Middlebury's Mark McLellan found some room in the between the circles and whistled a shot high. Brown had another quality chance for the hosts with 7:31 remaining, working his way to the top of the crease from the left wing, but Klein again came up with a clutch stop. The Panthers weathered the final 2:08, as the Jumbos pulled goalie Drew Hotte in favor of an extra attacker, but Middlebury didn't allow any quality chances to preserve the win.

Klein's shutout, the ninth of his career, was his second in as many seasons at Tufts. Last winter, he turned in a 41-save performance during a 1-0 victory. Hotte finished with 12 saves for the Jumbos, as the hosts held a 37-14 advantage in shots. Middlebury also did a tremendous job in front of Klein, finishing with 24 blocked shots. Both teams finished 0-3 on the power play.