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Division 3A hockey: Easthampton ices Greenfield to reach championship

  • The Easthampton hockey team celebrates its 3-2 win over Greenfield, in the Western Massachusetts Division 3A semifinal, Saturday at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's Bryce Jordan (5) fights for a rebound with Easthampton goalie Nate Barnes (1) in the third period, on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 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, 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

  • 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 Sean O'Sullivan (2) takes a shot in the third period against Easthampton, on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



For the Gazette
Monday, March 05, 2018

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Not much separated Easthampton and Greenfield 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 3A semifinal would disappoint.

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

Easthampton (11-3-7) will meet No. 5 Belchertown (8-6-4) for the title, Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Olympia. The Orioles knocked off No. 1 Chicopee, 7-3, in Saturday’s other semifinal.

“We expected this to be a tight game and it was,” Easthampton coach Bill Grise said. “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 run of play. Greenfield opened the final stanza with the first eight shots on net. Easthampton goaltender Nate Barnes held firm, turning away all eight shots and helping the Eagles kill 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 3-2 lead.

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

Pushing for the potential 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 ran the clock out after one more defensive zone draw to advance.

“You knew coming in it was going to be an exciting game,” Greenfield coach Adam Bouchard said. “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. 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 took their seats.

Easthampton responded, as Wilson scored his first 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.

“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 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 said. “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.”

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

With leading scorer Evan Simmons forced to miss the game due to a mandatory two-game suspension after being ejected from the season finale against Amherst Regional, 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 defeated Belchertown twice during the regular season.

“They’re all fired up,” Grise said. “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 lauded of his team. “I’m extremely proud of them. It was an exciting year and it bodes well for the program moving forward.”