U-32 tops BBA, defends Lake Division crown
Assistant Sports Editor
BURLINGTON -- Gutterson Fieldhouse, with its well-worn green-and-yellow painted bleachers, looks every inch of an arena tailored to match the jerseys of the Burr and Burton Academy boys hockey team.
Top-seeded U-32, however, made certain it was a blue-and-white celebration when the final horn echoed beneath the historic rink's arched, wooden ceiling.
Collecting their second Division II championship trophy in as many years, the Raiders used a pair of second-period goals to surge in front of the No. 3 Bulldogs and ride out a 5-2 victory on Wednesday night at the University of Vermont.
A pair of empty-net goals in the last 35 seconds inflated the final tally for U-32 (20-2-1), which avenged a loss and a tie to BBA (17-4-1) earlier this season.
"That second period, those first seven minutes of the period, if we could get a part of the game back we'd like to get that part back," said BBA coach Cory Herrington.
Senior forward Cole Mugford scored twice to power the Raiders, including the eventual game-winner on an unmarked back-door chance that pushed the lead to 3-1 with 5 minutes, 24 seconds left in the second period.
BBA senior Henry Buckley matched with his second goal of the night on a power play blast past U-32 goaltender Jordan Blais (16 saves) early in the third period to trim the deficit.
Buckley's 13th goal of the year added even more luster to a hard-hitting, end-to-end standout performance -- and upped the tension until the final minute.
"What a way to go out for him. He wanted to get back here last year. We came up to watch the girls' [championship] game and he said, ‘Coach, we're coming back here,'" said Herrington, whose Bulldogs reaches their first final since 2009. "His effort was absolutely tremendous.
"He was all over the ice, just a gritty kid played the best game of his career and under the biggest spotlight."
Buckley gave the Bulldogs the first lead of the night nine minutes into the game, with a rocket from a tight angle along the right boards after assists from Nolan Johnson and Bennett Timmerman.
U-32 fired back less than two minutes later to tie it when Wyatt Peterson beat BBA netminder Zack Stewart (22 saves) from behind a screen.
Andrew Danyew and Colvin Rice (one goal) assisted on the play, a lifeline against one of the state's top goalies.
"It's huge. When you play Stewart, you know you're going to need to bring your A-game," U-32 coach Dave Pickel said. "The kid doesn't give up rebounds, you're not going to get cheap goals. You have to create traffic, create the screens."
At 3:42 of the second, Shane O'Neill notched his 21st goal of the season, unassisted, streaking down the left boards before beating a defender to break in on the crease and push U-32 in front.
Combined with Mugford's strike, it put BBA against the wall with 15 minutes left in the season.
"We showed a lot of resiliency in the third," Herrington said. "We had some good opportunities to tie this thing up in the third, but it just didn't happen for us."
Despite three U-32 penalties in the final frame, Buckley's 5-on-3 conversion was the only opening the Raiders allowed, ending the Bulldogs' season for the second year in a row.
"I'm going to miss competing against them -- Buckley, [Sean] Paradis, [Brock] Pollard, Stewart -- that's a core group of seniors that's worked hard," Pickel said.
"I have a lot of respect for Burr and Burton and their coaching staff, their players," he said. "It's a pleasure to compete against them every year, it's just unfortunate we always seem to trip over each other and get in each other's way."
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