BRATTLEBORO -- The No. 2 Colonel boys are on course to claim their first Lake Division hockey championship. But a few major challenges lie ahead of them, on their journey to UVM’s famed Gutterson Fieldhouse.
First, the Colonels will have to beat Burr & Burton in today’s playoff bout. If they can accomplish this incredible feat, they might just go all the way.
Which would kind of be a big deal for the Colonels, who haven’t made the trip to the finals since 1994.
No matter the outcome, the Colonels have already displayed one hard-earned success after another this year, as the team wrapped up an almost flawless regular season.
Besides being a huge boost to the BUHS program, a championship win would only reinforce all the talk, that Brattleboro coach Eric Libardoni has made vast improvements to the team’s competitive nature, since he took control of the program six years ago.
Libardoni said he feels good about Friday’s game, and is excited his team finally has a shot at the crown.
"We’ve been studying their strategy, and Burr & Burton has a lot of components," he said. "We’ll have to keep them in check, and score early to put the pressure on. This should also take away some of their confidence."
Confidence isn’t something Brattleboro is lacking. After eliminating No. 10 Mount Mansfield, 3-1, in a quarterfinal held Tuesday, they began to see their dream materialize.
Burr & Burton (16-3-1) knocked out Hartford, 4-3, in a quarters decision on Tuesday, with Bulldog goaltender Zack Stewart saving the day in the game’s tense final moments. The BBA team looks to Sean Paradis and Brock Pollard to take care of business up front, and the two senior players have combined for 42 goals on the season.
Brattleboro goalie Greg DiSilva and BBA’s Stewart seem pretty evenly matched, in Libardoni’s opinion. "Two of the league’s best," he said.
DiSilva has a higher save percentage, but has also spent more time in goal this season than Stewart, who comes out on top with saves from shots on goal. But to get to DiSilva, most opponents who make their way into Colonel turf must first get beyond senior Philip Perkins, the team’s heavy hitting defender.
The Colonels have spread out their passing and shooting this year -- an effective strategy that relies heavily on a large core of senior players, while plucking abilities from their sophomore and freshmen group, to help carry the load.
Andy Harris, Brattleboro senior and one of the league’s top scorers, buried the purple and white’s first goal against MMU, earning him 28 on the season. Senior teammates Adam Griffin, Nik Rancourt, Jimmy Podlaski, and Romello Lindsey were also thorns in Mount Mansfield’s side, and Brattleboro sophomores Cooper Turner-Renaud, Jon Curtis, and Andy Gadowski (who scored the team’s second goal), all shined in Tuesday’s win.
But seniors Henry Buckley and Bennett Timmerman have also shown off their veteran skills during the Bulldogs’ climb to playoff contention, and the team’s junior through freshmen crew also won’t go down without a fight.
BBA held the No. 3 spot last year, beating Missisquoi in the second round, and falling to state champions, the U-32 Raiders, in the semis. The Colonels’ run was cut short early by the Raiders.
If the Colonels make it past the Bulldogs, there is still a good chance they’ll have to
contend with the defending champs, top-seeded U-32 (17-2-1), who will seek to finish off fifth-seeded Northfield, tonight in Barre.
A win today for Brattleboro means they will make one final trip Wednesday to Burlington, where they will either face Northfield or U-32 in the state championship.
David Aquino can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.