CONCORD — Berlin-Gorham Boy's Hockey beat Lebanon-Stevens-Mt. Royal 5-3 to advance to the finals, and then defeated Hollis-Brookline-Derryfield 5-1, to win the NHIAA 2021, Division 3 boy's hockey Championship.
Wednesday night at the Everett Arena in Concord, the Berlin-Gorham boys’ hockey team "upset" Lebanon-Stevens-Mt. Royal 5-3, to advance to the NHIAA Division III finals against Hollis-Brookline-Derryfield.
Sophomore winger Brody Duquette scored the tying and winning goals to help the Mountaineers move on in tournament action.
The reason I use the word "upset" was directly related to the fact L-S-MR caused the only blemishes on the local's regular-season record of 11-2-1. The Raiders handed the Mountaineers an early season 3-1 loss, and a late-season 2-2 tie and 4-2 loss to end the regular season.
Berlin-Gorham pulled some magic out of their hat in quarterfinal action by scoring three shorthanded goals in a row, en route to a 6-2 win over Plymouth-Kearsarge on March 7 at the Nucar Notre Dame Arena, and they did the same in that third and final period with five unanswered goals to advance to the Division III finals.
The action began Wednesday, much as it had in the previous 4-2 loss the Mountaineers experienced, with L-S-MR controlling the play throughout the bulk of the first period. They scored early on at 2:13 and 3 seconds into a power play when Aiden Yates scored, then Jake Kriplin, at 6:05, wristed a hard, high shot from just inside the right side blue line that B-G goalie Kolin Melanson may have not seen to put the hosts up 2-0, a lead that held up at the buzzer to end the period.
Even though the Mountaineers held an 8-6 advantage on the shots on goal statistic, they were pretty much outplayed throughout the period.
Finally, in the second stanza, the Mountaineers picked up the pace a bit, created some chances, especially on a power play early, but had nothing to show for it. They began peppering Raiders Goalie Toby Cromwell but he stood tall between the pipes and kept the locals off the scoreboard.
Even though B-G was dominating on both ends of the ice, at 12:48 of that period they had a defensive breakdown that allowed Griffin Auch to break in alone on Melanson and tuck the puck in the net to put the Mountaineers in a huge 3-0 hole, especially with the season history between these two teams.
B-G had a 17-4 advantage in shots on net in that period but still trailed. Shot totals to that point were 25-10- B-G.
I'm not sure what happened and what was said in the locker room between periods two and three, but the magic of that game against Plymouth-Kearsarge returned, even though it took 4:32 of play before Tyler Rousseau got the puck to Griffin Melanson, who with some great moves managed to beat Cromwell to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Then, 21 seconds later, at 4:53, Ben Estrella sent a pass to Dom Paradis, who took a slap shot that Rousseau, perfectly positioned with pressure, managed to deflect into the net as B-G trailed only 3-2.
Rousseau set up Brody Duquette for the tying score at 9:28, much to the delight of a good-sized group of B-G fans and probably a few viewing on NSN.
And, then, at 12:49 Estrella again started things off with a long cross-pass to Duquette, who went flying down the right wing and while deep into the zone, took a shot at what appeared to be a nearly impossible angle and somehow it snuck its way between the near post and Cromwell's pad and landed just inside the goal line for what proved to be the game-winner.
L-S-MR did not give up, however, and put some pressure on the Mountaineers, forcing Melanson to make a couple of huge saves to secure the lead. During a mad scramble in front of the B-G goalie, very late in the game, Estrella fell on the puck in the crease area and was called for a delay of game penalty. The Raiders had already pulled their goalie but now had a big advantage of six skaters to B-G’s four, but the Mountaineers gained control of the puck and Rousseau sent a three-quarter length shot into the empty net, shorthanded final goal at the 14:50 mark. T
The game ended 10 seconds later and that sent the Mountaineers to the ice to celebrate along with the coaches and all the local fans there and at home as we all witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in recent history.
Kolin Melanson, who settled down after that third goal he surrendered, faced a total of 14 shots, while Toby Cromwell, a stellar performer throughout the season and playoff action against B-G faced 40 shots, including a whopping 32 in the final 2 periods.
B-G Coach Mike Poulin said, "It wasn't the good start that we were looking for as we did not have much 'puck luck' in the first period and a half. We did begin to turn things around part-way through that second period, but the third Lebanon goal didn't help. We set a goal to score a goal every 5 minutes and the team had a great attitude going into the third period.
He added: “We scored one goal and stressed that the most important shift of the game is the one directly after a goal, and followed that up with another one 21 seconds later. That really picked up our confidence and after the tying goal just kept the pressure on finally scoring the game-winner and later the empty netter. It certainly was a memorable game for sure and proved that with the dramatic finish we have a lot of grit and moxie."
Now it was on to the finals for the second year in a row with a different outcome for sure, as this game, unlike last winter, was actually played. On Saturday night, it was back to the Everett Arena, named for the late hockey star and supporter, Doug Everett, for the DIII finals against a big, strong, physical Hollis-Brookline-Derryfield Warrior team which had beaten Kennett 1-0 in overtime on Wednesday to advance in the tournament.
Berlin-Gorham came out firing on all cylinders, with intensive pressure right from the get-go. That pressure resulted in a relatively early goal at 5:25 of the first period, when Carter Poulin took a slap shot from the left point, that hit a Warrior's leg and then the stick of Tyler Rousseau for a 1-0 lead. Butch Ladd and I had a perfect view of that pretty goal from the press box at the arena.
At 9:28 of the same period, Brody Duquette did about the same thing on another Poulin drive to up the lead to 2-0, the second game in a row with Duquette scoring the eventual game-winner.
B-G outshot the H-B-D 12-3, in that period, but it wasn't only shots on goal that told the early story, but that pressure that the Mountaineers put on their opponent.
Second period action had the locals scoring the lone goal 19 seconds into at B-H power play, and at 11:25, Ben Estrella and Carter set up Rousseau for a goal and a nice 3-0 lead. The Warriors were outshot by a slimmer 8-5 margin in that period. The Mountaineers, however, who trailed against Lebanon in the semi-finals 3-0 going into the final period, before scoring five unanswered goals, were not going to let that happen to them as they continued to put the puck on net.
At 9:05 Dom Paradis got the puck to guess who, Carter Poulin and he promptly set up Jamison Walsh for a pretty goal and a solid 4-0 lead.
Any and all Berlin-Gorham fans in the stands or following the game at home could sense the feeling that the Warriors were done, and it was cemented when Brayden Reindeau, doing what he does best, digging and scraping in the corners managed to get the puck to Rousseau and he finished it scoring his third goal of the game for a 5-0 lead.
The Mountaineers got a little lax when at 13:49, Sal Vella with help from Paul Vachon, beat Kolin Melanson to give the Warriors their lone goal.
With 11 seconds to go the energy in the building was strong and as time ran out, and the buzzer sounding and the Mountaineers stormed the ice for the celebration of a Division III NHIAA Hockey Championship.
Berlin-Gorham outshot Hollis-Brookline-Derryfield 37-14, with Rylan Morgan standing tall in his net with 32 saves, while Melanson was credited with 13 saves, although I imagine he would have liked to have that one he missed back. And at no point in time did the much smaller Mountaineers back down to the much bigger, physical Warriors, as they dished it out as well as took the physical hits and used their superior speed to wear down the opponents.
Nevertheless, the Berlin-Gorham Mountaineers boys’ hockey team had an emotional celebration in the parking lot at the Everett Arena and left Concord, came through a blinding snowstorm in the notch and beyond to an escort through Gorham and Berlin by state and local police, fire trucks and a slew of supporters in cars to the high school for a short gathering to enjoy the moment.
Senior Dominic Paradis, who was a solid, steady, dependable defenseman for BHS told me, "It was a great four years of hockey with an amazing way to end it, winning two states championships."
Senior center Tyler Rousseau said, "It was a very bittersweet game knowing that either way, it will be my last one, but knowing I had to leave it all out on the ice. We played for our seniors from last year who got the finals taken away from them. Holding that plaque was an amazing feeling, knowing that I had accomplished my dream since I was a little kid of winning a championship. I am so thankful to be a part of such as great team and to have so much support from our community."
Well-spoken by both of the young men.
Winning Coach Poulin humbly summed things up this way, "The boys played with a mission, playing for last year's BHS boy's and girl's teams, from last winter, through the spring, and into the fall, teams that didn't get to play or complete their seasons. And they were playing for the north country communities."
He went on to say, "The boys established the pace of the game early and scored those two goals, early and later, in that first period. The entire team was part of this process and players from 1-20 were all actively participating on the bench. They knew what could happen if they let up on the gas and set back, so we just kept pressuring the puck, with lots of traffic going to the net and good looks on the power plays as well.
"As coaches, we are very proud of the way they sacrificed themselves for the benefit of their teammates. Last but not least, thank you to all of the parents for raising fine young men and a great team, as these are the qualities that make us proud as coaches. A special thank you must go out to BHS Athletic Director Craig Melanson who made things happen for us by having all of the proper protocols in place so we could continue and finish our season."