BRATTLEBORO >> The Brattleboro Hockey Association's Learn to Skate session at the Nelson Withington rink at Memorial Park was extra-exciting on Saturday morning as two squads of BHA's Novice skaters — boys and girls under 7-years-old — prepared to graduate from skills development to actual game play. Brattleboro Union High School boys hockey Coach Eric Libardoni gave the Novice skaters pointers on passing and skating as they prepared to put their hard work to the test on Sunday at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, Mass. Both teams had great debut performances as the Blue Hawk Novices took on the Nonotuck Black Knights (Easthampton, Mass) and the White Hawks played the Holy Name Green Stars (Springfield, Mass.). BHA's Novice Blue Hawks received a grinding effort from "Smiling" Sammy Lyford and great defense from Oakly McCarty and Ethan Ahnert as Coen Bassler (10 goals), Alex Fortier (7 goals), Colby Robinson (3 goals) and Kalib Betit (1 goal) took care of the offense. The White Hawks' offense was led by Henry Schwartz (6 goals) as Talia Betit-Engel and Malika Anthes potted two goals apiece. Matrix Balsley-Petraska was a defensive rock for Brattleboro, while the slick passing of Senji Kimura and Jacob Sharkey accounted for the team's assists. In the Greater Springfield League (GSL), Novice games are played in a 3 on 3 cross-ice format, using mini-nets and no goaltenders. Specialized half rink boards are put in place to keep play in one end of the rink and the scoreboards are turned off.
At the next level up in the BHA chain, the Brattleboro Mite Hawks faced off against Keene and Holy Name (Springfield, Mass.). According to coach Andrew Dick, Saturday's Keene game was an exercise in overcoming adversity, while the Holy Name contest saw the Hawks pull an excellent team effort together. Reid Tucker-Boyd, whom coach Dick calls "the Nathan Gerber of the Mite-level Greater Springfield League," started the game in net but was replaced by Nick Fortier because of an equipment malfunction. The Hawks played an excellent game, with Bella Fortier and Nico Conathan-Leech both scoring gritty rebound goals. Evan Anhert, Gabe Alexander and Evan Wright recorded multiple goals. Andy Cay, and Alexander Dick both added a goal apiece. Alexandra Gregory played exceptional defense that day. Sunday's game was also good, featuring the Hawks' crisp passing attack and solid goaltending by Nico Conathan-Leech. With the Hawks allowing the puck to do the work, passing often and well, Evan Wright hit for four goals and Alexander Dick bagged a hat trick. Evan Anhert chipped in a goal. Jack Quarry and Matthew Lyford stood out on defense.
The Pee Wee Hawks hosted league rival Amherst on Sunday at the Withington Rink. In a tight checking game between two strong teams, the Pee Wees prevailed 3-0. The first period ended in a scoreless tie thanks to a few timely saves by goalie Darek Harvey and tough defense by Ethan Young, Jack Rockefeller, Lauren Carpenter, Nelly Tattersall and Derek Parsons. In the second period, the Hawks managed to tickle the twine at opposite ends. The first Brattleboro goal came just 53 seconds into the second when Jack Pattison sent a laser from the top of the faceoff circle past the unsuspecting Amherst tender. The tight checking battle continued until the Hawks worked a set faceoff play to perfection as Will Taggard won the draw back to Rockefeller who fired the puck on net, leaving a juicy rebound for Taggard to bang home with less than one second left in the period. Holding a 2-0 lead, the Hawks continued their tight checking into the third until Alex Palomba delivered a beautiful no-look pass that sent Pattison streaking down the left wing; The winger sent another laser past the Amherst goaltender and the Hawks were 3-0 winners. With the victory, the Hawks remained in first of the GSL Pee Wee South Division with a 16-0-2 record.
The BHA's other league leading GSL entry, the Squirt Hawks, continued their successful 2015-2016 season by collecting two more victories over the weekend. In Saturday's contest, Brattleboro took a 5-1 victory over Pioneer Valley Lightning out of Massachusetts. On Sunday, they shut out Holy Name Green (Springfield, Mass.) 6-0. With the wins, the Squirts moved to 18-0-0 in League play this season.
After the Learn to Skaters and Novices cleared the Withington rink's ice on Saturday Morning, the Brattleboro Bantams squared off against the Ludlow, Mass. Red Lions in a GSL contest. Collecting their third straight win, the Hawks evened their season series with Ludlow Red at two games apiece. More importantly, the Bantams kept their composure when tested by Ludlow's physicality. The Hawks revamped power play stayed hot and made the Red Lions pay for their trips to the penalty box on the way to the 7-1 victory. Gabe Heiden and Andrew Peloso led Brattleboro's offense with four-point games, scoring two goals and collecting two assists each. Nathan Powers (1 goal,1 assist), Alex Hudon ( 1 power-play goal) and Max Albright (1 goal) also reached the back of the net. The game was tight through one period. Brattleboro extended its lead to 3-0 in the second after Powers' blast from the point. Hudon's tally, assisted by Tyler Higley, built the Brattleboro lead back to three goals. Third period goals by Peloso, Albright and Heiden put the game away as Austen Wood and Forest Wohnus stood tall in the nets.
The week began on Monday with news that was welcomed throughout the Brattleboro Hockey Association when it was learned that Nathan Powers (Bantams) and Jenna Powers (U-14) had both been named to the Vermont State Hockey Association's Vermont Select teams for their respective age groups. The brother and sister combination, hailing from Putney, attended the Select Team's challenging two-day tryout at Cairnes Arena in Burlington, Jan. 23-24. As members of Vermont Select teams, Nathan and Jenna will represent Vermont at the New England District Festival, along with the other 14 teammates from throughout the state. Players participating in the District Festival, which will be held in Storrs, Conn. this year, receive consideration to take part in National and Multi-regional development camps sponsored by USA Hockey. Nathan and Jenna have played for BHA teams since they were at the Novice level. They are both great competitors, fantastic teammates and known for being among the hardest working players on their teams.