Assistant Sports Editor
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- A constant drizzle added a slippery coat to a foreign setting at Williams College -- perhaps the first site of a Vermont high school playoff contest in Massachusetts.
A well-drilled opponent -- Champlain Valley Union -- added frustration with patient, methodical possessions and opportunistic tallies.
Toss in a string of early miscues and the No. 2 Mount Anthony Union High School Patriots had the deck stacked against them. Knocking on the door of the state final for the second year in a row, the Patriots' title-game ambitions fell short in a 12-3 loss to the sixth-seeded Redhawks in the Division I semifinals Thursday at Lamb Field.
"They have a really good defense [but] I think, really, tonight, we killed ourselves," said Mount Anthony coach Paul Reif. "Fundamentals and penalties just killed us and took us out of our game early."
The win sends CVU (13-5) to Monday night's state championship game -- its sixth in eight years -- against top-seeded Essex at Castleton State College. Mount Anthony, meanwhile, ends its season at 15-3, the best mark in program history.
Sophomore Elliot Mitchell provided three goals and five assists for Champlain Valley, including the opening goal of the game, which was moved south of the border to Williams after several days of soaking rain left the Patriots' home field unplayable.
Mitchell's strike, with just over five minutes left in the first quarter, staked the Redhawks a 1-0 lead at the end of the frame.
The Patriots struggled to generate chances at equalizing, though, with several drops and turnovers in possession or trying to break out in transition.
"I think what really started it was in our clearing game -- guys got a little too anxious," Reif said. "When you get that sort of thing, the momentum just starts dragging at you, makes it hard to get any kind of flow going."
Collecting two goals on the man advantage in the first half, Champlain Valley built a 4-0 lead by the break. CVU ended the day with four goals in seven chances with MAU a man down.
The Redhawks bumped the lead to five less than two minutes into the third quarter when Jack Gingras scored a fastbreak tally with his team down a man.
"We knew MAU played a zone -- that was a really nice zone, it took us a while to figure out it out," CVU coach Dave Trevithick said. "When we started putting a couple [goals] away here and there, it started to loosen things up for us."
Avery Peck got one back for the Patriots midway through the third quarter with a nifty underhand finish from a feed by Luke Keenan, but a penalty 28 seconds later led to another CVU goal that wiped away any momentum from Peck's tally.
"We were really beating ourselves. I really felt that our zone was winning -- they were scoring their goals on man-up," Reif said. "When you're a man down, that kills you."
Down by seven to start the final stanza, Damon Young cut the deficit to 8-2 on a hard bouncing shot with 10:40 left to play. It was as close as the Patriots got, however, buried by four straight CVU goals.
Young finished with two goals for the Patriots. Jeremiah Colbath and Briar Wilkinson added assists.
Alex Bulla had a hat trick, while Matt Palmer and Nevin DiParlo each scored twice for CVU, which got 10 saves from Owen Hudson.
Mount Anthony senior goalkeeper Ben Faller finished with seven saves and senior Colin McGuire stopped three more shots.
"I'm so proud of all my seniors. I've coached those guys for four years, they were my JV team four years ago," Reif said. "I love those guys, I love this whole team. Things weren't going our way to day and we still didn't quit.
"That's the character of this team all year."