BURLINGTON – BFA St. Albans brought the “Easy Button” poster to Gutterson on Wednesday night as the No. 2 Bobwhites took on the fourth-seeded Stowe Raiders in the Division I championship.
The poster has become a St. Albans tradition; when a hockey player scores, they skate up to the glass and jump into the sign.
It didn’t take long for BFA players to celebrate. The Bobwhites scored 20 seconds into the contest and built up a four-goal lead by the end of the second period, well on their way to a 4-1 victory for the program’s 19th championship.
Instead of just one person jumping into the glass at the poster, the entire team took to the celebration after the clock struck zero.
“I thought it was a very solid start, and I thought we were pretty good throughout the entire game,” said BFA coach Toby Ducolon. “You can’t ask for a much better start than we got tonight, and then we closed out it very well as well.
“This is a very hard-working team, and they have become a dangerous team as the season has moved along, so they deserved this tonight.”
Shortly after the opening faceoff, Derek Nadeau chipped the puck up the boards to a streaking Hart who skated in on Stowe goalie Ethan Brown (16 saves) and put a backhand into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Just three and a half minutes later, the Bobwhites doubled their score when Colin Audy sent a pass up the boards to Matt Merrill, who scored in similar fashion to make it a 2-0 game going into the first intermission.
Hart added a pair of goals early in the second to give BFA a big 4-0 lead. Just three minutes into the frame, Parker Gratton found Hart wide open in the slot, and he buried a wrist shot.
Three minutes later on the power player, Dominic Liscinsky took a slapshot that was saved by Brown with the rebound going over to Hart, whose shot went five-hole on Brown for the four-goal lead.
“I couldn’t believe how quickly things came together for us in the beginning,” said Hart. “We got the first two in the first few minutes, and that kind of lit a fire under us and kept things rolling from there.”
Hart is only the eighth player to score a hat trick in a Division I championship game and the first to do so since 2010 when Spaulding’s Colby Laperle did it. He is the first BFA player to do so since his coach, Ducolon, did it in 1984.
“This is an incredible feeling,” said Hart. “You try to do everything you can to win a championship throughout high school, and tonight was my first one; being a senior makes it very special.”
Stowe didn’t go away without making things at least a little interesting in the third period. The Raiders sent a full-on attack at Bobwhites netminder Dan Ellis, who stopped 14 of 15 shots in the final period.
The one goal that got past him came early in the period when Stowe’s Landon Dubie skated into the slot and sent in a shot that was saved by Ellis, but Alex Tilgner was there to put the rebound into the open net to make it a 4-1 game.
From there, Ellis made quality stops to make sure the Raiders didn’t get any closer.
“Stowe definitely came out with a little more fire and energy in the third period,” said Ellis, who finished the game with 25 saves. “They really put us to work, but our team didn’t let off the gas and just kept doing what we had to do to hold them off and get the win.”
The Bobwhites finished the season with a 19-4 record, but it wasn’t always easy along the way. Early in the season, the Bobwhites dropped three of their four losses in a five-game span and were struggling to find answers.
From there, things started to click for BFA on their way to raising another championship trophy.
“I’m not going to say we are the most talented team in the state, but we are definitely one of the most improved teams as the season has gone along,” said Ducolon.
“We had a nice senior class that kind of put it all together; they have deserved everything they have gotten throughout the season, including these playoffs, which wasn’t easy.”
Liscinsky said the tough losses early in the season drove the team to continue to give a little extra each and every day they went out on the ice.
“Everyone really put in a lot of extra work during that rough patch early in the season,” he said. “Putting all that work in made us closer, helped us continue to build on our chemistry, and it all paid off being here and getting this win tonight.”
It’s been a good nine-year span for the Bobwhites, who picked up four titles over that time, winning it all in 2012, 2016, 2017, and now 2020.
After falling out of the tournament in the first round in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Bobwhites made sure it didn’t happen again, ending this year with another victory and another title.
“We couldn’t ask for a better way to go out,” said Ellis, a senior who helped the team win the title in 2017 as a freshman. “It’s sad that it’s the last game of high school, but we wouldn’t want it any other way than coming away with another championship.”
“When you come out on this ice, and the whole town is here supporting you, there is no better feeling in the world,” added Liscinsky. “It’s truly an amazing feeling, and it was a driving force for us all game long.”
Even though the Bobwhites’ season wasn’t always easy, they made Wednesday’s game look it and knew just the way to celebrate at the end.