The second-seeded Spartans road a seven game win streak going into their home ECAC East quarterfinal matchup against the seventh-seeded Babson Beavers. The Spartans, though, were defeated 4-1 by the Beavers, ending their season-a season different from any other.For over twenty minutes, the game remained scoreless, even though the Spartans saw more opportunities Babson. Beaver goaltender, Andrew Peabody, stood on his head saving almost every shot the Spartans took. Castleton found itself knocking on Peabody’s door a few times early on in the period. The Beavers’ net was even taken off its mooring on one Spartan scoring chance.
Babson drew first blood on a shorthanded attempt. Castleton defender Jared Lavender was chasing down the puck inside his defensive zone. A Beavers penalty killer skated up to Lavender and somehow the puck was flipped past Spartan goalkeeper Jay Seals. Trailing 1-0 the Spartans were on a two-on-one rush, winding up and taking a hard slap shot. Peabody silenced the crowd with a quick glove save on a shot that
looked like a sure thing for Castleton.
The third period began with a minute left to kill on a Castleton roughing penalty. As soon as the penalty box was opened and play was even, the Spartans were finally able to capitalize. After a Cody Ayers equalizing goal, the score sheet read all Babson. The Beavers scored on a slap shot from the point and again on a shot with a crowd in front of Seals. The empty netter came with 24 seconds left, but the Spartans’ net was empty with two minutes remaining in the game.
“The bounces just went their way,” said Ayers. “It was just one of those things where we couldn’t get any momentum when we needed it.”
Sophomore defenseman Omar Pacha shared Ayers’ sentiments.
“It was really tough, it’s probably more frustrating than sad,” he said about the loss. “He [Peabody] played great and I don’t want to take anything away from him, but we missed a few chances.”
The loss caps a season that was full of character, and wins that weren’t supposed to happen. During its seven game win streak, Castleton won five games by one goal.
Ayers said a lot of the Spartans’ wins were from behind and this was attributed to the team’s commitment to hustling out every play.
Never before has Castleton beaten Norwich University, Middlebury College and St. Michael’s College in the same season. Middlebury led Castleton 1-0 before the Spartans came back. St. Mike’s never had a chance; the game was over before it even started. The Spartans mauled the Purple Knights 8-3 in a game that turned out to be a scoring convention.
Norwich, like Middlebury, felt a bitter defeat after it went up 2-0 going into the third period. The Spartans outworked the Cadets and rallied three straight goals to win the game.
“We were really pumped,” Pacha said, speaking about the wins against in-state rivals this season. “But you got to realize we can play with these teams.
Three years ago we weren’t expected to beat Norwich or Middlebury. But I think now we’re on the same page with them.”
Pacha also said how close Castleton hockey is to the top of the ECAC, and how this season Castleton might have been the best in Vermont hockey, with wins over Norwich and Middlebury as his evidence of such a claim.
Castleton president Dave Wolk says the team is full of fine upstanding young men who mentor, give back to the community and impressively hold the highest GPA for all Castleton men’s athletic teams.
“A lot of the seniors I have come to know,” Wolk said prior to the Babson tournament loss. “I hoped they would have a successful season, and by my measures they have, regardless of what happens in the postseason.”
Wolk also spoke about the Spartans being hard working and respectful, as well as the role modeling they provide for the young kids in southern Vermont.
Although the season has come to an end, it will be remembered as the first year Castleton became a contender. The fans’ expectations for the school are higher with the recent success the team has found.
With the senior guidance that molded the young talent of this year, Castleton looks to be an ECAC target next season.