×

Easthampton and Belchertown vying for Western Mass Division 3A hockey title

  • Christopher Buffone, of Belchertown, scores with an outside shot against Chicopee Comp, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Olympia Rink in West Springfield.

  • Nathan Ayers, center, of Belchertown, gets control of a pass against Ethan Pajak, of Chicopee Comp, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Olympia Rink in West Springfield. Belchertown goalie Ethan Rajpold looks on.

  • Christopher Buffone, of Belchertown, celebrates his goal against Chicopee Comp, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Olympia Rink in West Springfield.

  • Christopher Buffone, of Belchertown, celebrates his goal against Chicopee Comp, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Olympia Rink in West Springfield.

  • Justin Pendrick, front left, of Belchertown, passes the puck away from Derek Boutin, of Chicopee Comp, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Olympia Rink in West Springfield. Belchertown goalie Ethan Rajpold looks on.

  • Cody Lambert, center, of Belchertown, shoots against Chicopee Comp, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 at Olympia Rink in West Springfield.

  • Greenfield's Doug Hanieski (19) contends for possession in the third period against Easthampton, on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 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, on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



For the Gazette
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Neither Belchertown nor Easthampton has appeared in a Western Massachusetts Division 3A title game since before any of their current players were born.

That will change Thursday night, when No. 2 Easthampton (11-3-7, 6-0-2 Wright) will take on No. 5 Belchertown (8-6-4, 4-4 Wright) for the champions at 5:30 p.m. at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield.

“To win a Western Mass. title would mean a lot for our team and our program,” Easthampton coach Bill Grise said. “I think that’d be the biggest statement, obviously, we could make this year.”

Belchertown coach Matt Crutch said chemistry helped his team finally break through and reach this point.

“This is a really close team,” he said. “Parents are fighting over who will host team dinners, they’re that close. We’ve gotten a ton of support from them, from the (athletic director), all the coaches.”

Belchertown has come closer to the finals in recent years, losing in the semifinals three of the past four years. Easthampton has not reached the tournament since 2014.

This year, though, the Eagles secured the second seed with only three losses on the year, while Belchertown was the fifth seed and the only team to play two games to reach the final. The Orioles won both, shutting out No. 4 Chicopee Comp before pulling off a 7-3 upset over No. 1 Chicopee on Saturday.

Senior Nate Pacheco led Belchertown with a hat trick in that game after finishing with 12 goals on the year.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” Crutch said. “He’s our one captain, basically our only senior who’s played. He’s a natural defenseman, but we needed more of a scoring punch. This is his first year as a forward, and he’s done an outstanding job for us.”

Easthampton had a closer call in the semifinals, edging No. 3 Greenfield 3-2. Senior Dillan Wilson scored two goals off the bench, while classmate Patrick O’Connor had the other goal for the Eagles.

“I think they just don’t want their high school hockey careers to be over just yet,” Grise said. “There’s a little bit more incentive for those guys.”

The last time the two teams faced in the tournament was 2009, when Belchertown beat Easthampton 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Playing in the same class, however, the two teams have already faced off twice this season. Easthampton took both matchups, most recently a 3-1 win on January 6.

“I like to throw those games out the window,” Grise said. “Anything can happen in the postseason, and I certainly don’t have the team dwelling on our past experiences with them. Anything can happen, and we won’t be sitting back at all. We’ll come out flying.”