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Wave icemen lose 3-2 heartbreaker

  • Greenfield’s Sean O’Sullivan (2) takes a shot in the third period against Easthampton Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield’s Doug Hanieski (19) contends for possession in the third period against Easthampton Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield’s Bryce Jordan (5) fights for a rebound at the goalmouth with Easthampton goalie Nate Barnes (1) in the third period Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield’s Kyle Barnes (11) fights for a rebound with Easthampton goalie Nate Barnes (1) in the second period Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield’s Doug Hanieski (19) looks for an open pass in the second period against Easthampton Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Easthampton celebrates their win over Greenfield Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Sunday, March 04, 2018

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Not much separated Easthampton High School and Greenfield High School during two regular-season meetings. After skating to a pair of ties and sharing the Wright Division championship, there was little doubt Saturday’s Western Massachusetts Division III-A Hockey Tournament semifinal would not disappoint.

No. 3 Greenfield rallied to tie the game in second period, but senior Dillan Wilson scored the eventual game-winning goal with 9:51 remaining in the third as the third-seeded Eagles advanced to the WMass championship game with a thrilling 3-2 victory at the Olympia Ice Center.

Easthampton (11-3-7) will meet No. 5 Belchertown High School for the WMass title Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. back at the Olympia. The Orioles knocked off top-seeded Chicopee High School, 7-3, in Saturday’s other semifinal.

“We expected this to be a tight game and it was,” explained Easthampton head coach Bill Grise. “Two ties during the season, it’s really anybody’s game. I’m excited we took the win, obviously. It’s a huge step for our program.”

The game-winner from Wilson came very much against the grain of play early in the third. Greenfield opened the final stanza on fire, recording its first eight shots on net in the period. Easthampton goaltender Nate Barnes held firm, however, turning away all eight and helping the Eagles kill off a Greenfield penalty early in the frame.

The Eagles caught the Wave flatfooted with 9:51 remaining, as Wilson took a feed in front from Matt Zuzula and backhanded it past Greenfield goalie Riley Drew for a go-ahead strike that staked Easthampton to a 3-2 lead that held up.

Greenfield didn’t go away down the stretch, however. The Green Wave went on the power play with 2:41 remaining in regulation after Bryan Baumann was hauled down on a breakaway attempt.

Pushing for the potential game-tying goal, Greenfield emptied its net with 1:15 left and had a 6-on-4 advantage. The squad nearly produced the equalizer, as Bryce Jordan batted at a loose puck in front of Barnes but couldn’t quite get a stick on it with 7 seconds remaining. Barnes covered up, and Easthampton was able to run the clock out after one more defensive-zone draw to seal the deal and advance to a WMass title game.

“You knew coming in it was going to be an exciting game,” admitted Greenfield head coach Adam Bouchard. “It’s two great teams that already played a couple of great games. We played them at their rink and came back to tie the game, and they did the same thing to us at our place. Hats off to Easthampton. They executed when they had to. They were able to put one more goal in than we did, and there’s your difference.”

Greenfield came out flying early in Saturday’s semifinal. Just 2:09 into the game, Doug Hanieski stole the puck at his own blue line and skated in alone for a breakaway. Hanieski’s shot went through the legs of Barnes, and the Wave took a 1-0 lead before many in the crowd had managed to sit down.

Easthampton responded quickly, however, when Wilson scored his first of two goals with 7:09 remaining in the first period. Drew turned away an initial shot from Chris Tenczar, but Wilson was right there for the rebound to tie the game at 1.

“I wasn’t terribly worried,” said Grise after his team fell behind 1-0. “The guys do a pretty good job keeping their composure.”

A wide open Patrick O’Connor put the Eagles on top for the first time just 2:30 after his team tied the game. O’Connor took a Tenczar pass from behind the goal on the power play and deposited it into the corner of the net for a 2-1 advantage. Easthampton held a decisive 9-2 edge in shots on goal in a strong opening 15 minutes.

“We came out a little slow, especially after that first goal,” Bouchard admitted. “First playoff game for anybody on this team, I expected them to get better as the game went along and they got more and more comfortable.”

Greenfield’s Baumann tied the game with a beautiful goal just 2:20 into the second period. His unassisted tally beat Barnes over the shoulder for a top-shelf strike that reset the game tied at 2-2.

With leading scorer Evan Simmons forced to miss the game due to a mandatory two-game suspension for a kicking penalty in the season-finale against Amherst Regional High School, Greenfield bumped freshman Kyle Barnes to its top line along with Baumann and Hanieski. Bouchard said he was pleased with the play from his freshman, who was thrown into a difficult situation in his first-ever postseason game.

“That’s an immense amount of pressure for a kid, but he really battled,” Bouchard said of Barnes. “When the opportunity arose, he came up with four or five shots and had a couple scoring opportunities. Stepping in for Evan, those aren’t easy shoes to fill but he played extremely hard.”

Easthampton will now play a Belchertown team it defeated twice during the regular season in Thursday’s title tilt.

“They’re all fired up,” said Grise of his team. “No one in that locker room has ever been in a tournament game before, so needless to say, we’re breaking new ground here.”

Greenfield finished its season 14-5-2 overall, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Green Wave graduate eight seniors.

“Emotions are extremely high for them right now, but the effort they put in all season really showed,” Bouchard praised. “I’m extremely proud of them. It was an exciting year and it bodes well for the program moving forward.”

Greenfield held a 17-16 edge in shots on goal, with Drew recording 13 saves and Nate Barnes turning away 15.