BRATTLEBORO >> The Brattleboro Union High School varsity girls and boys ice hockey teams exited Nelson Withington arena just as they had entered it on Wednesday.
Right on the bubble.
Each needing one more victory to qualify for the state tournament, the BUHS girls fell to Hartford 2-1 in the opener and the Colonel boys were routed 6-0 by U-32 in Memorial Park's second game.
"We'll make it into the playoffs and then go upset a team on the road," said confident Brattleboro boys coach Eric Libardoni, whose team dropped to 4-10 overall.
Maybe limiting the talented U-32 team to just six shots during the scoreless first period is what made him a believer. The Colonels tried something new in those 15 minutes — running a trap in the neutral zone.
"They are the best team in the league. They are fast, they moved the puck well and they skated well. That's why they win so many games. I think they've been in the finals four out of the last five years," mentioned coach Libardoni.
Ryan Andreoletti and Lucas Eldred each tallied twice for the visitors, who took a 2-0 lead in the second period and added four more goals in the third. Colby Brochu and Griffin O'Neill each split the posts once.
U-32 goalie Rory Hynes made nine saves to earn the shutout. He stopped six blasts by senior co-captain Evan Perkins and also denied Dan McMahon on an attack.
Brattleboro, which was outshot 37-9 on the night, had a couple of powerplay chances down the stretch. Declan Lonergan unloaded off of a faceoff and then McMahon blew by defenseman Matt Hynes before getting stuffed by the U-32 netminder.
It seemed like BUHS defenders Miles Hiler, Bradley Fellows, Mason Powers and Perkins were under pressure from start to finish. Co-captain Braxton Lynn was often seen battling with Brochu in front of Brattleboro goalie Nick Perusse, who made how-did-he-do-it stops on lasers from Zach LaGue, Liam Robert, Conor Barrett, Eldred and Brochu in the second period.
"Our goalie got peppered with shots. It's not easy when you face so many shots," noted Libardoni, whose 4-10 Colonels will play at Hartford on Saturday. They will face Middlebury, Burlington, Lyndon, North Country and Stowe after that.
In Game 1 on Wednesday at Memorial Park, the sell-out crowd watched the Hartford girls score twice in the last 10 minutes to steal a 2-1 victory.
"We gave that one away," stated Brattleboro coach Linda Burke. "In the first period we were great, but in the second period not so much. I think we just stopped skating."
The purple and white put the heat on Hartford goalie Maggie Gilman right out of the gate. Axis Balsley Petraska missed high with a couple of darts, while Kylee Shatrau and Emily Martyn were each rejected.
Brattleboro took a 1-0 lead with 4:17 left in the opening period. Right defenseman Hannah Curtiss sent a pass toward the far post that was collected by Emma Rueter, who skated behind the net and somehow slipped the puck between Gilman and the post.
BUHS netminder Keagan Jameson was steady over the first two frames. She made saves on both of Meghan Boardman's shots, robbed Amanda Nelson on an attack, and got her stick in front of an attempt by Caitlin Gaudet.
Tri-captain Sarah LaPorte cleared the puck out of danger over and over. She skated the puck behind Jameson twice in the second period — passing off to a teammate the first time and jetting the length of the ice the second time.
The Hurricanes would dominate the third period. Nelson and Gaudet were each denied twice by Jameson, before the former rallied down the right side and scored the equalizer with 9:37 remaining.
And roughly six minutes later, Hartford's game winner would come off of a faceoff. With the puck being dropped to Jameson's right, Boardman put away a pass from Gaudet.
"I'm sure Keagan wishes she had been ready for that faceoff," said coach Burke. "We practice that. It shouldn't have even gotten to that."
The 3-10-2 Colonels will visit Missisquoi Valley on Saturday. The rest of their schedule consists of games against Woodstock, U-32, Harwood and Rice.
"I thought we were in really good shape — needing one win and facing a Hartford team that we had beaten 5-2 up at their place. We have to decide as a team how far we want to go," commented the Brattleboro coach.