The Panther men's hockey team capped an amazing season by winning its sixth NCAA Championship. Middlebury has won more championships and more NCAA Tournament games than any other team in Division III Men's Hockey Championship history. The 27 wins this season are also a school record.
It was a fitting way for the National Player of the Year to cap his career, as senior Kevin Cooper (Mississauga, Ont.) knocked home the rebound of junior Brian Phinney's (Ripton, Vt.) shot 2:58 into overtime, giving the Panthers the 2004 NCAA Division III National Championship with a 1-0 win over St. Norbert College.
"I think it's prophetic that we played overtime again," said Panthers coach Bill Beaney, who guided the team to their sixth NCAA title, and their first since their streak of five straight was snapped after the 1999 season, when they last won a national title, on the same sheet of ice at Norwich University's Kreitzberg Arena.
Middlebury and St. Norbert traded body-blow for body-blow in a fast paced, hard-hitting game that saw the Panthers out-shoot the Green Knights, 33-29. Senior Marc Scheuer (Pt. Claire, Que.) was tough, stopping Faron Duthie's blast from the left face-off slot, and then stoning Connor Hughes blast seconds later on the ensuing face-off during the third period.
"Marc has been the backbone of our team throughout the playoff run," said Middlebury captain John Dawson. "He may be small, but he's quick, and he gets every puck."
"It's a tribute to our group that they persevered," said Beaney. "It didn't come easy tonight, and everyone knows it certainly didn't come without an awful lot of work last night. We had two things that you need to win hockey games, great, great, great goaltending and opportunistic scoring and guys who believed."
"In a 0-0 game it's gonna be a bounce this way or that, and it bounced for me," said Cooper. "They have been bouncing for me a little bit this year."
Senior Mike Kennedy (Darien, Conn.) shipped the puck to Phinney, whose shot from the left side bounced directly to Cooper, who had a wide open right side of the net into which to score the game-winner, which was the 99th goal of his career.
"Our guys from the freshman up are great," said Cooper. "They put everything into this. We cared for each other, and had the trust, the respect that we have been talking about the entire year. It's an unbelievable experience."