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Mitch's Sports: A Nifty Bruins Goal On 'Nifty' Night; Can Eight-Player Football Catch On In Vermont?

It's entirely appropriate that the Boston Bruins notched a 2-1 overtime win against the NY Islanders last night when Ryan Donato made a nifty move in the shoot-out round, racing in from the right wing, faking to his forehand before deftly tucking a backhand into a small opening between the post and the outstretched pad of goalie Robin Lehner for the game-winner.

It was the kind of nifty goal the night's guest of honor used to make on a regular basis when he played 12 seasons for the Bruins from 1976 to 1988, earning the nickname "nifty" from then-coach Don Cherry.

Rick Middleton had his number sixteen retired and raised to the rafters at TD Garden before last night's game, the eleventh such Bruin to earn the honor, and well deserved, not just for the numbers, which are impressive. Middleton ended his career as the Bruins' 3rd all-time leader in goals scored and fourth in points, but it was the manner in which he scored many of those 402  goals that endeared him to Bruins fans.

Middleton was a wizard with the puck on his stick, using subtle head fakes and imperceptible shifts in speed and direction to leave defenders befuddled as he weaved his his way to the net. His go-ahead goal in game seven of the 1979 semi-finals against the Montreal Canadiens should have held up as the game winner that sent the Bruins to the Stanley Cup final that year, but the infamous too-many-men on the ice penalty that followed spoiled that effort.

Middleton also coached a team of USA sled hockey players to Olympic gold in the 2002 Paralympic Games and many of them were there last night to help retire number 16, a nifty sight indeed.

As for the game that followed, Brad Marchand scored in regulation to tie things up on a one-timer, getting a nice feed from David Pastrnak. Anders Lee had given the Islanders a 1-0 first period lead but Tuukka Rask shut down the Isles after that, making 28 saves for the win.

Quite the shocker in the NFL last night as the Dallas Cowboys ended the New Orleans Saints ten game winning streak, holding Drew Brees and the high powered Saints offense to just 10 points in a 13-10 upset in Texas. Ezekiel Elliott caught a 16-yard screen pass from Dak Prescott for the only Cowboys touchdown. Jourdan Lewis picked off Brees, just the third interception he's thrown all season, late in the game to help the Cowboys run out the clock and improve their record to 7-5 and hand the Saints just their second loss of the year.

Locally, 3rd ranked Middlebury faces top seed Washington-St. Louis in the NCAA division three semi-final round of women's soccer this weekend. The Panthers have a shot at reaching the title game for the first time in school history if they can get past the Battling Bears, who have yet to lose a game this season, a perfect 21-0.

But the Panthers lost only once this year to go with three ties and eighteen wins, and have a potent offense led by Eliza Van Voorhis with 8 goals and 20 points, and the defense isn't too shabby, either, with just ten goals allowed all year and 12 shut-outs credited to keeper Ursula Alwang.

A Vermonter who once played on an 8-man football team for his high school in Winooski is trying to revive the format to keep the game alive in Vermont. Traditionally, football games feature 11 players on each side of the gridiron, but it's been tougher in recent years to field full teams, especially for smaller schools.

Montpelier and Winooski lost their football teams entirely, and this past season, Missisquoi, Mount St. Joseph's, and Oxbow all had to cancel parts of their regular season schedule because of lower than expected player participation.

But Shawn Morse, who lives in Colchester and coached the JV squad for Champlain Valley Union High last fall, has launched a social media campaign to make the case for 8-player football to catch on in Vermont, and I reached him by cell phone to talk about the effort.

He says he's worried about football becoming a thing of the past in Vermont and the best way for small schools in places like Vergennes, Lamoille, and Enosburg  to keep it alive is by fielding 8-player teams, and Morse points to schools that originally started with 8-player squads like Colchester, Milton, and Otter Valley as building success that way.

Morse is making his case to the Vermont Interscholastic Football League, which reports to the Vermont Principal's Association, the panel that would ultimately have to approve 8-player football.

You can find out more about his efforts here:

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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