Division 3A hockey: Matt Brunelle powers South Hadley past Chicopee in quarterfinals

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  • Mike Mazza, center, of South Hadley, tries to split Chicopee defenders Evan Bailly, left, and Nolan Florence, Tuesday at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Cam Pete, right, of South Hadley, and Jake Raleigh, of Chicopee, go to the puck, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joe Meon, right, of South Hadley, looks for a shot against Evan Bailly, of Chicopee, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Brunelle, of South Hadley, celebrates his goal against Chicopee in the first period, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • South Hadley players Matt Brunelle, left, and Nick Hartley, right, look for a shot against Chicopee defenders David Shea, from left, Austin Scott and Evan Bailly, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Brunelle, right, of South Hadley, scores on Chicopee goalie David Shea in the first period, Tuesday at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. Brunelle finished with four goals in the 5-2 victory in the Western Massachusetts Division 3A Tournament quarterfinals. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos and video. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joe Cigal, right, of South Hadley, shoots against Evan Bailly, of Chicopee, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Brunelle, second from left, of South Hadley, celebrates his goal against Chicopee in the first period with teammates Joe Meon, from left, Kadyn Laramee and Aidan Sullivan, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Brunelle, of South Hadley, celebrates his goal against Chicopee in the first period, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ryan Tucker, center, of South Hadley, moves the puck between Chicopee defenders Kendall Walsh, left, and Austin Scott, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 at Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/26/2020 12:58:03 AM

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Each of Matt Brunelle’s four goals accomplished a different objective.

The South Hadley junior’s first tied Tuesday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3A hockey quarterfinal against No. 4 Chicopee in the first period.

His second put the No. 5 Tigers ahead for good. No. 3 gave South Hadley breathing room to start the third and marked his first hat trick. The fourth, an empty-netter, put the game to bed and earned South Hadley senior Mike Mazza his 99th career point with an assist.

“Just capitalizing on their mistakes,” Brunelle said.

South Hadley needed every tally. The Tigers beat Chicopee 5-2 at the Olympia Ice Center and advance to the semifinals.

Top-seeded Greenfield (17-3-0) awaits at 2 p.m. Saturday back in West Springfield. The Tigers (12-7-2) lost 4-0 to the Green Wave in late January but only trailed 2-0 entering the third period.

“They skate three full lines,” South Hadley coach Larry Camus said. “I don’t have the depth that they do, but we’re gonna give it our best shot.”

The Tigers took Chicopee’s best shot early in the first period. Freshman Tyler Bielecki put the Pacers ahead 2 minutes, 53 seconds into the game.

“I wasn’t worried about the one goal, I said ‘let’s get it back, settle down,’” Camus said. “Little nerves, some of these guys never played in a tournament game before. Let’s play our game, we’ll stay with it.”

South Hadley trailed for 10:35. Joe Meon found Brunelle on the breakaway, and he slid the puck past a sprawled out David Shea to tie the game.

The Tigers generated more chances in the second on open ice but struggled to finish for most of the period. Back-to-back offsides calls eliminated two chances 8:30 in. Shea stonewalled Mazza and Ryan Tucker on the breakaway, and Meon slid a shot just past the post, slamming his stick on the ice.

South Hadley goalie Anthony Cigal kept the Pacers (9-5-8) at bay while his team worked through its offensive struggles.

“He keeps us in most of the games,” Brunelle said.

Then Brunelle broke through again. Mazza initially corralled a rebound that leaked out to Aiden Sullivan, who fired it back on net. Shea kicked it out of danger for a moment, but the puck landed right at Brunelle’s stick. He wristed it into the net for a 2-1 lead with 30.8 seconds left before celebrating in front of the Tigers’ student section.

“That was pretty big, got the boys up,” Brunelle said.

He then made sure South Hadley maintained its lead, making it 3-1 1:07 into the third period. Mazza controlled the puck behind the net then slipped it to Brunelle in a dangerous shooting position at the mouth of the goal.

“That third goal was key,” Camus said. “We said coming out of the locker room, ‘whoever gets that next goal controls the game.’”

The Tigers kept their grip tight the rest of the way. Meon scored a goal of his own on a late power play, flipping the puck over Shea from Tucker with 4:39 left. Brunelle put the bow on the game with an empty-netter with 1:09 left from Mazza, his third assist and point No. 99 for his career.

“We’ve been playing together for three years now the chemistry’s getting better as the years go on,” Brunelle said.

The Tigers returned to the semifinals after falling in the quarterfinals last year against eventual champion Easthampton. It’s the first time South Hadley has advanced this far since winning the title in 2017. The Green Wave attended Tuesday’s doubleheader and watched South Hadley’s victory.

“They’re a pretty solid team, we’re gonna have to come out hard,” Brunelle said. “I’d say they’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.



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