It was another classic matchup when the second-seeded BFA-St. Albans boys hockey team hosted No. 3 CVU on Tuesday afternoon at Collins Perley with a spot in the Division I championship game on the line.
In a back-and-forth game that saw a number of momentum swings throughout, the Bobwhites capitalized just a little more on its opportunities.
After CVU had tied the game 1-1 early in the second period, the Bobwhites took advantage of a 5 on 3 chance to retake the lead, which proved to be the difference.
BFA’s defense and goalie Dan Ellis did just enough in the final two minutes during a CVU barrage of shots and the Bobwhites added an empty netter just before the horn to come away with a 3-1 win and advance to the team’s 26th championship in search of its 18th banner.
“That was just a hard-fought game on both sides,” said BFA coach Toby Ducolon. “It was a great finish out there and really looking forward to the championship on Thursday.”
BFA scored a goal late in the first to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but the lead was short lived, as the Redhawks answered in the first two minutes of the second.
CVU continued to put pressure on BFA before a pair of back-to-back cross checking penalties gave the Bobwhites a 5 on 3 powerplay for over a minute.
The Bobwhites wasted no time, as Connor Wood slipped a pass to Isaac Cioffi at the point and he fired a shot from the blue line that got past CVU goalie Ty Parker, who was screened by Noah Vincelette. Colby Brouillette also picked up an assist.
“Vincelette timed that screen perfectly on Isaac’s shot,” said Ducolon. “I don’t think Parker saw much of the puck if he saw it at all. It was a great goal and a very timely goal.”
It was a disciplined game for the Bobwhites, as they weren’t called for any penalties throughout the entire contest, despite both teams playing very physical.
“CVU’s powerplay is one of the best in the state, so we knew we had to limit the penalties coming into tonight,” said Ducolon. “I’m very impressed with how disciplined they played to not get a single penalty. You have to give our guys credit, they stayed composed in a very physical game out there.”
BFA had the better pressure out of the gate, but couldn’t bury any of its shots early on.
They finally found the back of the net with less than a minute to go in the period. Vincelette picked up a loose puck behind the net and put a pass on the stick of Hayden Fersing. Fersing quickly flipped the puck to Owen Hungerford in the slot and he squeaked a shot past Parker to give the Bobwhites a 1-0 lead and the momentum heading into the first period.
“Owen Hungerford has definitely been one of our better forwards in the second half of the season,” said Ducolon. “He’s playing like a senior each and every day and his production on the ice and his leadership off the ice has been very good.”
CVU responded quickly when Jennings Lobel took a pass in the blue line, skated into the shot and fired a shot under the glove of Ellis to tie the game 1-1.
Both teams battled back and forth without getting too many quality chances until BFA got the 5 on 3 goal from Cioffi.
As BFA continued to wind down the clock, CVU pulled Parker with just under two minutes to go in the game for the extra skater.
The Redhawks were inches away from tying the game in the final minute, as a shot from Nate Shanks was turned away from the pad of Ellis for the biggest of his 20 saves.
“We put ourselves in a tough situation defensively toward the end either by not marking someone correctly or missing our guy,” said Ducolon. “Ellis came up very big at the end there for the stop. The last one with the leg was incredible and extremely fast and that’s a tie game without that quick pad. That’s a super stop right there.”
The Bobwhites suffered a tough loss when senior Zach Savage had to leave the game during the first period with a shoulder injury.
As one of the team’s leading scorers, the team stepped up in his absence on Tuesday and will have to do so if again if he’s not ready to go on Thursday.
“It definitely hurts not having Savage out there,” said Ducolon. “It’s a tough loss for us, but we have a lot of depth on this team, so we have players who can step up, but we will have to see how things are come Thursday.”
The Bobwhites will get the opportunity to defend their crown on Thursday when they take on top-seeded Spaulding at Gutterson Fieldhouse at 8 p.m. The Crimson Tide took down South Burlington 4-1 on Tuesday.
BFA and Spaulding split the season series with each team tallying a 2-1 win over the other and also playing to a 1-1 tie.
With a quick turnaround, BFA will be ready for Thursday’s game in search of banner No. 18.
“It’s a tough turnaround between the semifinals and finals with only one day in between,” said Ducolon. “It’s tough with the intensity of the games, but it is what it is. We will get rested up tonight and tomorrow and be ready to go come Thursday.”