A Northfield defender blocks Skyler Blaney’s stick but not the puck, with Blaney’s slapshot setting up one of teammate Seth Amstein’s three goals during the MVU Hockey Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Highgate Arena. (Photo by Josh Kaufmann)

HIGHGATE — Matching two-goal, one-assist games from Jackson Hickey and Seth Amstein led Milton to a shootout victory over Northfield to take third place in the MVU Holiday Tournament at Highgate Arena on Friday and Saturday.

The Yellowjackets’ tiebreaker victory over the Marauders in Saturday’s game was also a league contest for the Division II teams and is officially a 4-4 tie.

Northeast Clinton edged Milton 4-3 in Friday’s season- and tournament-opening game. The Cougars went on to defend their tournament title with a 4-2 win over Missisquoi on Saturday.
In the two games, Amstein and Hickey combined on five goals and three assists.

Both of Amstein’s goals Saturday put Milton in front — 1-0 2:54 into the second period and 4-3 with 5:04 left in the third. Hickey ended a three-goal run by Northfield on a score that made it 3-2 with 44 seconds left in the second period, and he evened it up 8:04 into the third.

“Our scorers are scoring in this game, which is what I want to see,” Milton coach Trevor Wagar said. “I told them Seth and Jackson should be scoring 50 percent of the goals we score, if not more. Having them do that, I expect it so it’s nothing surprising.

“But our defense was surprising, especially Will Jenkins just being very disciplined and playing good, solid hockey.”

Wagar was pleased to start the season with strong efforts in a pair of tight games.

“The 4-3 one (Friday) could have been a little better. But it was the first game we’ve played,” Wagar said, excited that his team showed it was capable of knocking off Northeast Clinton before fighting to earn the league tie/tournament win against Northfield. “We had a scrimmage against MVU on Wednesday. But this was good for our confidence.

“We were able to get all three lines on, and all three lines of defense going, too. We tightened it up at the end. But they got on the ice, they got playing time, and hopefully they’re happy about that.”

In addition to helping wear down the Marauders on Saturday with significant playing time in the first two periods, that unit of Brandon Cardinal, Ben Peterson and Rabtoy produced the first Yellowjacket goal of the season after just 3:34 when Rabtoy set up Peterson on Friday night.

“It helps us in the season to come. It helps us next year to get those guys experience,” Wagar said. “We need to find ways to get them experience, sprinkle them in there. It helps to have a third line that we’ll be able to get in.”

Northeast Clinton defended its tournament championship with a 4-3 victory over Milton on Friday and a 4-2 win over Missisquoi on Saturday. Alex Duffy led the Cougars with five goals, scoring Northeast Clinton’s last three goals in the opener and its first two against MVU.

Northfield came up short in both its games, but not for lack of effort. With sophomore Luke Gadbois forced into emergency goaltending duty after the starter was injured less than a week earlier, the Marauders did an admirable job preventing chances. MVU was held to 17 shots on goal and Milton to 21, with 11 of the Yellowjackets’ coming in the third period and overtime against a tired defense playing its second game in 20 hours.

Milton took third place in the tournament, thanks to a shootout win when Gadbois was left without any defensive help, and the Yellowjackets scored on their first four of five chances. Milton goalie Brandon Rhoades allowed a score on the first Northfield shootout try, but stuffed the next two to earn the win.

Friday night, Milton got a goal each from Peterson, Seth Amstein and Jared Amstein, but Northeast Clinton won thanks to a hat trick from Alex Duffy.

The Cougars took an early lead on Chad Littlefield’s goal two minutes in, and Duffy scored their next three goals for a hat trick — two in the second period and what proved to be a needed insurance goal for a 4-2 lead in the third.

Peterson tied it up for the Yellowjackets at 3:34 of the first, assisted by Zach Rabtoy. After Duffy’s power-play score 4:01 into the second put NEC back in front, Seth Amstein made it 2-2 less than five minutes later, with an assist from Jackson Hickey.

After Duffy’s third of the night gave the New York team a two-goal advantage, Jared Eckstein pulled Milton back within one on a power-play goal assisted by Skyler Blaney and Ben Jackson. But NEC protected the one-goal lead over the final five minutes to make Saturday’s game against Missisquoi a tournament title game.

Rhoades made 17 saves for Milton and Kyle McCarthy stopped 16 shots for the Cougars.
On Saturday, Northfield used disciplined play (taking one penalty to Milton’s six) and superb defensive coverage to stay even with the Yellowjackets.

Seth Amstein ended a scoreless battle 2:54 into the second period with an assist from Blaney, but Northfield rallied with three straight goals in a span of less than eight minutes to build a 3-1 lead. Hickey gave the Yellowjackets a huge lift heading into the second break with an alert play on the penalty kill. Following a long clear out of the Milton defensive end, Hickey got to the puck deep in the offensive zone and flicked a quick wrist shot home to make it 3-2 with just 44 seconds on the clock.

Milton built on that momentum with a strong third period, finally getting the equalizer after a frustrating series of chances that were either blocked by the defense of clanged off the frame. Seth Amstein had two scoring bids miss by inches as he hit a soft shot off the right post and second later rang a hard one off the left post. Gadbois came up with a nice save on Amstein’s point-blank follow-up shot, but Hickey pushed the rebound home to make it 3-3 with 6:56 left in the period.

Northfield captain and all-tournament pick Jackson Tucker forced Rhoades to make a nice stop on a clean breakaway, and seconds later, Milton took the lead for the second time when Ian Pelkey and Hickey set up another score for Seth Amstein for a 4-3 edge with 5:04 left in regulation time.

Each team had a great scoring chance late in the period. Tucker was again denied when Jackson tied him up in front of the crease and Rhoades poked the puck away. At the other end, Gadbois made a big stop when he dove out to cover the puck and prevent another shorthanded score by Hickey.

That stop proved huge moments later when Jeremy Quelch scored with 1:36 remaining to force overtime.

Rhoades had another nice save in the final minute, gloving a deflected slapshot, and Gadbois made the toughest stop in the five-minute overtime when he handled a rising slapshot from the left side by Amstein.

For the two games, Amstein finished with three goals and an assist while Hickey had two of each. Saturday, they put up matching two-goal, one-assist efforts.

The two Highgate Arena-based teams will have time to work on their games after the early tournament games. Milton (0-1-1) is off until Saturday, when it visits Burlington H.S. for a 7 p.m. game at Leddy Park. MVU (1-1) doesn’t return to action until Wednesday, Dec. 19, in Essex against Mt. Mansfield.


ROSTER: 2012-13 Varsity Hockey

8    Nicholas Goodrich        Sophomore
10    Skyler Blaney              Freshman
10    Logan Beliveau           Sophomore
11    Chris Johnson            Junior
13    Jackson Hickey          Senior
14    Brent Legault              Junior
15    Ben Jackson              Senior
16    Zach Rabtoy               Freshman
17    Jared Amstein             Sophomore
18    Brandon Cardinal        Sophomore
19    Will Jenkins                 Junior
20    Alex Roberge              Senior
21    Seth Amstein              Senior
22    Hunter Goodwin          Sophomore
23    Ian Pelkey                    Junior
24    Ben Peterson              Junior
25    Keith Mercure              Senior
25    Ryan Nichols               Junior
27    Ryan Lucia                  Junior
30    Brandon Rhoades       Junior

Head Coach: Trevor Wagar