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South Hadley falls to Agawam in Division 3A hockey final

  • Beau Kass of South Hadley, top right, absorbs a check from Seamus Curran of Agawam beside Alex Ablianitis Thursday at Olympia Rink. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Beau Kass of South Hadley, top right, absorbs a check from Seamus Curran of Agawam beside Alex Ablianitis Thursday at Olympia Rink.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Beau Kass of South Hadley passes against Seamus Curran of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Beau Kass of South Hadley passes against Seamus Curran of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nick Harris of South Hadley, left, moves the puck ahead of Billy Wysocki of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.JERREY ROBERTS

    Nick Harris of South Hadley, left, moves the puck ahead of Billy Wysocki of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley goalie Devin Hoagland blocks a shot from Agawam as Brian Bak looks on Thursday at Olympia Rink. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    South Hadley goalie Devin Hoagland blocks a shot from Agawam as Brian Bak looks on Thursday at Olympia Rink.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tom Dowd of South Hadley passes against Corey Jenks of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tom Dowd of South Hadley passes against Corey Jenks of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Beau Kass of South Hadley, top right, absorbs a check from Seamus Curran of Agawam beside Alex Ablianitis Thursday at Olympia Rink. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Beau Kass of South Hadley passes against Seamus Curran of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Nick Harris of South Hadley, left, moves the puck ahead of Billy Wysocki of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.JERREY ROBERTS
  • South Hadley goalie Devin Hoagland blocks a shot from Agawam as Brian Bak looks on Thursday at Olympia Rink. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tom Dowd of South Hadley passes against Corey Jenks of Agawam Thursday at Olympia Rink.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

WEST SPRINGFIELD — When evenly matched programs meet in a one-game playoff scenario four seasons in a row, each team is bound to claim victory at some point.

The South Hadley hockey team saw its four-year reign as Western Massachusetts Division 3A champions come to an end Thursday evening in a 5-1 loss to Agawam in the sectional final at the Olympia Ice Center.

The top-seeded Brownies (18-3-2) wiped away the frustration of three straight title game losses to their rival and took home the program’s first sectional crown since 1987.

“We started slowly, and (Agawam) was really hungry,” South Hadley coach John Houle said. “They have a lot of upperclassmen and those guys were on a mission. They beat us to the puck all night and got a few bounces.”

The Tigers’ championship hopes slipped away late in the second period when the Brownies scored three times in just over 3 minutes. The first came on a giveaway at the Tigers defensive blue line, and Billy Wysocki took advantage by snapping one by Devin Hoagland with 4 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the period.

Then on a power play, Corey Jenks went strong to the net and Hoagland stopped the initial shot, but defenseman Seamus Curran knocked home the rebound.

Jenks capped the outburst with 1:24 left by putting a powerful outside move on Jeff Beauregard before shoving it in to make it 4-1.

The second could have been worse for South Hadley. Hoagland made successive saves on two separate occasions, while Beauregard made a diving sweep check to take a scoring chance away from Jenks in front of the net roughly a minute before the Brownies assumed the lead again.

“We gave up a lot more quality shots than we wanted, and we struggled clearing the puck,” Beauregard said. “We had some mental breakdowns as well as physical breakdowns.”

No. 2 South Hadley (16-4-3) tied the game at 1-1 on the man advantage just 1:45 into the second. Sophomore Beau Kass took a pass from Beauregard on the left halfwall and fired a shot that skipped off the near post and past a stunned Anthony Ascioti.

“Jeff took it in and I called for the puck, he gave me a nice drop pass and I just put it on net,” Kass said. “I think it went off a leg in front, and I don’t think (Ascioti) saw it.”

Kass was rewarded after forcing the penalty by chasing down a loose puck and getting tripped while bearing down on Ascioti.

“We gained some momentum from Beau’s goal, but it was a pretty short-lived ride for us,” Houle said. “Giving up (Agawam’s third goal) really took the wind out of our sails. It was going to be tough to come back at that point.”

Sustained offense was hard to come by for South Hadley, which put just 15 shots on net. In two regular-season meetings, the Tigers had close to 40 shots in each contest.

“I knew it would be tough to beat them because they’re a deep, strong team,” Houle said. “I didn’t expect to outshoot them, but it’s a little surprising it was that one-sided. Their goaltending isn’t quite at the level as ours, so they wanted to keep our shots to a minimum, which clearly they did.”

The Tigers were awarded a pair of power-play opportunities in the final period but came away empty. Eric Kierkla added the last Agawam goal with just over four minutes left in regulation.

An uncharacteristically sloppy first period ended with the Tigers trailing 1-0. After surviving most of the period, a turnover in the slot handed the puck right to a forechecking James Newsome, who put a whirling backhand past Hoagland with 1:55 left.

South Hadley gave up a number of odd-man rushes in the first, including a four on two which concluded with a Hoagland save. The junior netminder stopped 35 shots in suffering just his second career postseason loss.

“We were nervous being in the western Mass. final, and it just wasn’t our day,” Kass said.

It was the final high school game for seniors Beauregard, Tom Dowd, Alec Plotnikiewicz and Steve Mathes.

“I’m thrilled with the season, to get back here was impressive,” Houle said. “The kids played with a lot of heart. We’re only losing the four seniors, but all of them were valuable. Jeff’s obviously a huge loss, all leadership will be the biggest loss. All those guys are great in the room.”

Beauregard said, “This is a great program and we’ve had tremendous players come through these last four years. But we’ve also had a lot of chemistry and worked well together. It’s been a blast.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @mjwilk1237.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WEST SPRINGFIELD As the South Hadley hockey team skated off the ice following its 5-1 loss to Agawam in the Western Massachusetts Division 3A title game Thursday night, the disappointment on the players’ faces was evident. But after entering the dressing room and taking a few moments to reflect on the game and the season, the Tigers realized they have …

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