Resilience was the name of the game for the Springfield College Pride as they inched past the Panthers of Middlebury, 14-12, on a chilly dusk game at Stagg Field at Springfield College.
The two teams went back and forth throughout most of the game, and late in the third, the Panthers looked as if they were about to run away with the game, until the Pride scored six unanswered goals to put the pedal to the metal and dash away from an indefatigable Middlebury team.
Springfield came into the match ranked No. 13 in the nation, while their Northeast rival was not ranked in the top 20, despite receiving votes.
The face-off battle was a big one, as both sides had extraordinary face-off specialists. Brandon Fernandez, the recently crowned New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week, took on Brendan Gallagher and Harrison Goodkind of Middlebury. Fernandez took 16 of the face-offs, while Gallagher and Goodkind combined for 14.
“[Fernandez] won some huge face-offs for us, especially in the fourth quarter,” said Coach Keith Bugbee
The game was a learning curve, as Middlebury brought in a methodical style of play that, ironically enough, was overwhelming at times for Springfield’s run-and-gun style.
“[Middlebury] plays so slow at times it forced us to get caught up playing slow at times too… but we made some great adjustments,” stated Bugbee.
Goaltending on both sides was well above par, as Connor Nash put together a .500 save percentage with 12 saves, while Nate Gaudio had 16 saves for a .533 save percentage.
“Watching [Gaudio] play just motivated me to play better,” said Nash with a beaming grin. “We came out flying…our offense played great, our defense played great and we just fed off each other.”
“Energy” was the buzzword whistling around the north end of the sidelines for the Pride all game. At times, it was all that needed to be said to generate production, as it was the basis of Bugbee’s rally entering the fourth quarter.
“We needed energy,” said Devin Abad, who had a goal and assist on the night. “We were a little flat at times, and if we take care of energy, everything else takes care of itself.”
The Pride get back in action Saturday in Buzzards Bay, Mass. against the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Springfield is on a three-game winning streak, and if extended to four on Saturday, the rankings may certainly work in their favor as a result when they are updated on Monday.
With just a few weeks remaining in the season, the Pride are all hands on deck going into NEWMAC play, with eyes set even further to the NCAA Championships.