Tigers’ decisive second sinks Blue Bombers

Lake Placid goalie Anders Stanton stops a shot by Middlebury’s Kamrin Bartlett while Jarrett Hathaway defends for the Blue Bombers during the opening period of Tuesday’s game. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

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LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid hockey team put in a solid effort but came up short in a 5-2 home loss to Middlebury Tuesday at the Olympic Center.

The Blue Bombers headed into the matchup with a 13-player roster against a much deeper opponent, and jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the Tigers answered back with the next four goals of the game to take control. The teams then traded the final two tallies of the game, with Lake Placid closing the gap to 4-2 with a goal late in the second period and Middlebury notching the lone goal of the third.

Hunter Wilmot and Tyler Hinkley each scored a goal for Lake Placid off assists from Hayden Plank, and all three first-line skaters picked up two points each. Tyler Giorgio netted a pair of goals and added an assist to lead Middlebury. Wills Huntington, Devon Kearns and Hale Hescock sent home single goals for the winners, who improved to 3-0-1 overall.

After being outshot 24-12 during the first two periods, Lake Placid played more evenly in the final stanza and kept the game tight until the Tigers scored late to regain their three-goal edge.

“So we lost the game but the effort was there,” said head coach Butch Martin, whose Blue Bombers dropped to 1-4 overall. “Coach Nikko (Nick Moran) and I asked them for that entering the third period, and they responded as best as they could. The band of 10 there went out and worked their tails off. We didn’t want to lay an egg, we didn’t want to give up, and we didn’t.”

Plank, Lake Placid’s junior captain, set up both Lake Placid goals on passes from behind the net. The Blue Bombers got the game’s first marker 4:04 into the game. On the play, Plank took a pass down low from Hinkley and then fed the puck to Wilmot, who was on the doorstep and poked it past Middlebury goalie Jeffrey Stearns.

Huntington evened the contest, scoring with 2:55 left in the first to send the teams into intermission in a 1-1 deadlock.

Middlebury then took control with three straight goals in a decisive second period, starting with Giorgio’s first of the game at the 1:51 mark. Kearns followed with a goal midway through the period off assists from Kolby Farnsworth and Kamrin Bartlett, and Hescock pushed the Tigers’ edge to 4-1 at the 12:08 mark on a scoring play set up by Giorgio and Brian Kiernan.

Facing a three-goal deficit, Lake Placid closed the gap to 4-2 on Hinkley’s goal with 52 seconds left in the middle period. He converted a feed in front of the net from Plank with Wilmot also assisting on the play.

After being doubled up 24-12 in shots on goal during the first two periods, the Blue Bombers fared much better in the third and were out shot 5-4. Lake Placid stayed right on Middlebury’s heals until Giorgio, a senior captain, buried an insurance goal on a power play with 4:05 left on the clock.

Freshman goalie Anders Stanton turned in a solid performance in nets for Lake Placid and finished with 24 saves. Stearns picked up the win between the pipes for Middlebury with a 14-save effort.

“Lake Placid came out ready on the first drop of the puck and we were a little hesitant,” Middlebury head coach Derek Bartlett said. “We didn’t get a shot on goal until six minutes into the first period. We finally got into a bit of a groove and were able to tie it up. Even though the score was 5-2, I don’t feel our compete level was quite there. The kids they did have out there were competing hard and with a lot of heart and grit.

“I liked the goals we had in the second period and the way we responded,” Bartlett continued. “We had a nice rebound shot, a second chance, we had a rush off a defensive zone faceoff, which was nice. We did some good things here and there, and at times, we got lackadaisical. It was a battle. I don’t think the score indicated how tightly this game was contested. Lake Placid was always knocking on the door.”

Martin was especially pleased with the Blue Bombers in the third period, despite the fact that they were attempting to kill off three penalties, including a 4-minute major for boarding.

“The penalties were unfortunate, and one of them was by a freshman, and that showed he’s not afraid to get his nose in there,” Martin said. “Anders played well, we had some great opportunities, and we got rid of the puck quicker. From midway through the second on, I thought our kids played the way we wanted them to play at this time. That goal at the end of the second was huge. I lifted them up and showed them that we can compete. It was a good battle tonight and I wasn’t disappointed at all.”

Lake Placid will be facing the Tigers again when it travels to Vermont for its annual appearance in Middlebury’s annual holiday tournament, which takes place Dec. 28-29. The Blue Bombers will square off with Stowe on the first day and play Middlebury in its second game.

“Middlebury was a nice team to play and we’ll see them in 10 days,” Martin said. “They tied up Stowe, so we know we can compete with both teams.”

The Blue Bombers head to Vermont as the six-time defending champion in the Middlebury tournament.