The Middlebury men’s hockey team moved to 7-2-4 in its last 13 games, earning a 4-4 road tie at Norwich. The teams added another chapter to their historic rivalry on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Kreitzberg Arena. The two in-state arch-rivals battled to a 4-4 tie after Middlebury’s Ben Wiggins leveled the score at four with 6:42 remaining by banging home a loose rebound in a scrum around the Norwich net.
Norwich sophomore forward Kyle Thomas saved his best game of the season to date, scoring three goals for his first hat trick of the season to lead the NU offense.
Thomas opened the scoring at the 12:06 mark of the first period when he took a pass from Greg Eskedjian at center ice. Thomas turned on the after-burners to skate by a Middlebury forward and then split both defensemen. He skated in from the left circle and across the top of the crease before sliding the puck in far post to beat Middlebury’s sprawled out goaltender, John Yanchek.
Middlebury evened the score at one a little over five minutes later when Charlie Strauss tipped a shot from Michael Longo at the point past Norwich goaltender Parker Carroll for a power play goal.
Middlebury’s J.D. Vermette took control of the game in the second period with two goals just 38 seconds apart in the first five minutes of the period.
Strauss hit Vermette in stride at the Norwich blue line with a tape-to-tape pass that sprung Vermette on a breakaway. Vermette waited out Carroll and then beat the Norwich goaltender high and glove side to give Middlebury its first lead of the game at 2-1.
The Panthers stretched the lead to 3-1 when Vermette let go of a soft wrist shot from the top of the right circle that found its way past Carroll after he was screened by a player cutting into the slot.
Later Emmond Bell won a battle along the boards and found Thomas alone in the center of the ice at the Norwich blue line. Thomas took a few strides and then unleashed a wrist shot that beat Yanchek low to the right side to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Thomas completed his hat trick with 1:04 remaining in the second period when he laid out with a Middlebury defender draped all over him and jammed a one-time pass from Chad Anderson in the slot at the top of the crease past Yanchek to tie the game up at three. The goal was on the power play and it was his team-leading fifth of the season.
Scott Schroeder gave Norwich the lead once again with his team-leading 12th goal of the season just 3:41 into the third period off a drop pass from Anderson.
Neither side was able to come up with the game-clinching goal in a thrilling five-minute overtime that featured constant end-to-end action with multiple chances by both sides to win it. Middlebury had the best chance off an odd-man rush, but Carroll stood tall making two point-blank leg saves to preserve the tie.
Yanchek made 20 saves for Middlebury and Carroll turned aside 22 shots for Norwich as the freshman stayed undefeated on the season and is now 5-0-2.