By Tris Wykes
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – Barwood Arena’s parking lot was almost as slippery as the building’s ice sheet Saturday. Daylong melting snow followed by freezing temperatures combined to make crossing the blacktop surface highly treacherous.
Inside, the Hartford High boys hockey team found its going similarly risky. The Hurricanes blew a two-goal lead in the third period and fell, 4-3, to Burr & Burton in a game that wasn’t even scheduled until mid-afternoon.
“They were a desperate hockey team and they were able to raise their level of play,” said Hartford coach Todd Bebeau. “We just did not match it. We didn’t manage the puck well and overhandled it. They took advantage of us on their transition.
“My kids are trying really hard but winning at this level is razor-thin and right now we’re not doing enough to win hockey games.”
Hartford took five of the game’s seven penalties, broke down defensively in the third period and should have gotten a save from Davey Bradley on the winning tally with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.
“We showed we’re not ready to win big hockey games tonight,” Bebeau said. “My kids care and they’re frustrated but the reality is, we didn’t make enough plays when we needed them to win the game.”
Hartford (1-4) opened the scoring during the fifth minute when Bentley Boonyaharn poked in a puck at the right post. Linemates Ezra Mock and Jacob Dwinell earned assists.
The Hurricanes doubled their lead eight minutes into the second period. Blaine Gour passed out of the right corner to Mock, who scored at the far post from atop the crease.
Burr & Burton (5-0) halved its deficit fewer than two minutes later when a shot popped high off Bradley and dropped into the net behind him. The Hurricanes went up, 3-1, on a Joseph Barwood goal, Lochlan Park being assigned the assist.
The hosts repair to the rink lobby between periods, so as to have more room to socially distance. Bebeau addressed them intensely, telling his troops the Bulldogs would come out flying to start the third period and that Hartford’s checking would have to be disciplined.
Instead, the hosts were overwhelmed. Burr & Burton took the final stanza’s first six shots and pulled within 3-2 during the fourth minute.
The Bulldogs struck again with 4:29 to play, sending a quick pass from behind the net to a completely unguarded man in front. At that point, the visitors had taken 8 of 9 shots since the second intermission.
Hartford’s Ozzie DeFelice hit the post on a short breakaway 17 seconds later but Burr & Burton’s Matthew Gabher notched the winning goal when he cut through the right circle and shoved in what seemed like a halfhearted shot along the ice at the near post.
The loss closed a highly unusual day for the Hurricanes, who were scheduled to host Milton at 5 p.m. However, the Yellowjackets canceled in late morning because of Covid issues and Bebeau was initially unsuccessful at replacing the game with a practice.
A few hours later, practice was back on, but at 4 p.m. The Hurricanes scrambled to the rink and were about to take the ice when athletic director Jeff Moreno appeared. Moreno explained that Burr & Burton, scheduled to play St. Johnsbury at Barwood on Saturday evening, had just lost that contest when the Hilltoppers discovered Covid problems of their own.
So the Hurricanes and Bulldogs booked each other on the fly. They play at Barwood again Wednesday in a previously-scheduled contest.
“I have never come close to experiencing anything as crazy as today,” Bebeau said. “That game was a microcosm of today. These are crazy times, all peaks and valleys, and I feel for the kids.
“Two different ways to go on this: we can feel sorry for ourselves and complain and moan or we can get up and worker harder and learn how to win these games.”
Notes: Bradley finished with 18 saves… Hartford standout Aidan Boonyaharn didn’t skate during the first period but Bebeau declined to address the junior forward’s specifically, saying only “I put the people on the ice that I felt would give us the best chance to win,”… Hartford administrators realized Saturday that the rink’s fixed video camera used for online streaming broadcasts is positioned too low for viewers to see the scoreboard. The solution? Writing the score on the ringside glass with erasable marker. The problem should soon be addressed with an additional camera shot showing the scoreboard throughout a broadcast… Dwinell has committed to play football at Norwich University next fall.
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