Great hockey teams are usually built upon great goaltending. A good goalie can turn a so-so team into a championship team, and the absence of reliable goaltending can turn a contender into an also-ran.
Both of the Brattleboro hockey teams lost last season’s goaltenders to graduation — Greg DiSilva for the Colonel boys, Alex Fellows for the Colonel girls. Both teams have struggled to find someone who can provide consistency between the pipes.
It usually takes time, and game experience, to build up a goalie’s confidence. When everything finally clicks, suddenly the wins start coming.
Brattleboro girls’ hockey goalie Keegan Jamison, a sophomore, has struggled this season. However, against Hartford on Feb. 5 at Withington Rink, she turned in her best performance of the season with 16 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Hurricanes.
Those 16 saves by Jamison are even more impressive when you consider that Hartford scored on its first shot of the game, just 45 seconds into the opening period. When Courtney Murray got that goal, it was easy to think that it would be another long night for the Colonels.
Instead, the defense rallied around Jamison, and the Colonels steadily ratcheted up the pressure on Hartford goalie Heather Decker.
Brattleboro freshman Jamie Mahoney tipped in a pass from Axis Baisley for the tying goal with 8:18 left in the period. Emma Rueter then got the go-ahead goal with 4:52 left when she knocked the rebound after Decker deflected a blast from Sarah LaPorte.
The Colonels then played superb defense in a scoreless second period, controlling the puck and limiting the Hurricanes to just four shots.
Hartford played with more urgency in the third period, but Jamison stopped all eight shots she faced and the defense successfully thwarted a power play. LaPorte got Brattleboro’s final goal with 10:34 to play as Baisley got her second assist of the night.
“Keegan was amazing tonight,” said Colonels coach Linda Burke. “She made some game-changing saves. She’s been working hard in practice all season, so it’s good when you see all that work start to pay off.”
Burke also praised the work of the defense, particularly the job they did shutting down Hartford in the second and third periods. It was the third straight win for the 5-11 Colonels. The victory also gave the Colonels the 25 percent win percentage they needed to qualify for the Division II playoffs under BUHS rules.
• The Colonel boys may have found an unorthodox way to deal with the twin problems of shaky goaltending and a struggling offense that lost some of its scoring punch to injuries.
After the Colonels gave up five unanswered goals to lose to Milton, 6-1, on Jan. 31, coach Eric Libardoni decided to try something different on Feb. 4 against Rutland. When the Colonels got a chance to keep the puck in the Rutland zone, he pulled his goalie for an extra attacker.
Normal hockey strategy says to do this when you trail by a goal in the last two minutes of a game in the hope that playing 6-on-5 will yield the tying goal to force overtime. Sometimes it works. Most often than not, the other team scores an empty net goal, but the risk is generally worth the reward in that situation.
Liberdoni said pulling the goalie for an extra skater in the first period is “obviously unorthodox,” but he wanted to see what would happen.
“We did it five times against Rutland ” he said. “Against the better teams, we needed to find a way to keep it in the offensive end.”
The Colonels lost to Rutland, 9-1, but the experiment yielded a startling result — Rutland scored more goals with the goalie in the net than they did when Brattleboro pulled their goalie.
Against Lyndon Institute on Feb. 8 at Withington Rink, Libardoni tried the tactic again in the first period. The result was the Colonels scored one goal with the extra attacker, and gave up an empty net goal.
“We broke even, and if we can break even against the better teams doing it, that’s a good thing,” he said.
Unfortunately, Lyndon is not one of those better teams in Division II. The Vikings are winless and entered the Brattleboro game having given up 10 or more goals eight times. The Colonels took full advantage and rolled to a 13-2 win.
After trying the empty net strategy, and ending up tied 2-2 early in the first period, the Colonels didn’t need any more exotic strategies. They completely overwhelmed the Vikings as Brattleboro ended up with an 8-2 lead by the end of the first and coasted from there.
John Pelsoso had three goals and three assists, while Cooper Turner-Renaud, Andy Gadowski, and Kam Pelkey scored two goals each. Dario Politella got his first varsity goal, John Curtis got a goal and two assists and Braxton Lynn and Evan Perkins also scored.
As for the goaltending, freshman Durin Hoyer started the game and gave up one goal in nearly two periods of work. Junior Nick Perusse, who has been the starter most of the year, only played the tail end of the second period and all of the third.
The win improved the Colonel boys record to 6-11, but Libardoni is quick to point out that none of the wins against the top teams in Division II. He believes the Colonels can possibly host a first round playoff game, but only they win the rest of their games.
• Brattleboro rallied from a 30-25 deficit after three quarters of play to beat Mount Greylock, 43-38, on Jan. 30. Another grinding defensive effort paid off for the Colonels with an 18-8 outburst in the final eight minutes.
Devin Millerick and Morgan Derosia each scored 10 points for the Colonels, each had eight points in the final quarter. Abbie Lesure (six points, six rebounds, four assists), Gabby Carpenter (seven points, 10 rebounds) and Taylor Bird (three points, six rebounds) also contributed.
The Colonels turned in another gritty effort on defense in a 34-24 win at Rutland on Jan. 31. With the Raiders clinging to an 8-6 lead at the half, Lesure and Maddy Derosia combined to go 7-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half for the Colonels, while Morgan Derosia and Bird each connected on three-pointers.
Maddy Derosia finished with nine points and six rebounds, while Lesure got eight points, and Carpenter scored seven. Morgan Derosia and Bird finished with four rebounds each. Bird also had four steals.
On Feb. 4, Brattleboro put away Otter Valley, 47-31, with a 10-0 run in the third quarter. Carpenter scored a game-high 14 points, all of them coming in the second half. Millerick, Bird, and Lesure each added six points.
The Colonels finished out the week with a 42-37 win over Burr & Burton on Feb. 7 at the BUHS gym to improve to 12-5. Both teams ended the week tied for the No. 5 spot in Division I.
• Leland & Gray fell behind early and could not complete a comeback in a 41-36 loss to Vermont Academy in Townshend on Feb. 5. Down 28-13, the Rebels got to within three points at the end of the third, 34-31. They would not get closer. Haley Buffum led the Rebels with 18 points, while Allie Erunski was VA’s top scorer with 16.
• Twin Valley topped Bellows Falls, 43-31, as Christina Moore (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Colton Butler (11 points, four rebounds, and three steals) led the Wildcats. Chelsea Wilder was BF’s top scorer with 11.
• Bellows Falls bounced back from that loss with a 75-58 rout of Sharon Academy on Feb. 4. Hannah Kelly had the game of her life with 34 points and 29 rebounds. Wilder also was huge with 18 points, 18 steals, and 12 assists, while Molly Dufault had eight points and 12 rebounds as BF improved to 6-8 on the season.
• Brattleboro got off to a fast start against Mount St. Joseph, and never looked back in a 54-39 road win on Jan. 30. The Colonels had a 21-7 lead after one quarter as Josh Hanson and Dylan DeJordy each scored 16 points. Tanner Freeman added 12 points.
The momentum didn’t carry over when Rutland faced the Colonels at the BUHS gym on Feb. 3, as the Raiders pulled out a 52-45 win. Brattleboro trailed 23-21 at the half and 35-33 after three quarters of play. The Colonels had a chance to win, but could not get the shots to fall in the fourth quarter.
Hanson scored 12 points to lead the Colonels. Freeman scored nine, while DeJordy and Lynden Bunker added eight each.
• Twin Valley had no problem beating West Rutland, 65-39, on the road on Jan. 31. Skyler Boyd finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Kyle Murdock ended up with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Sam Molner added 12 points and Justin Hicks had seven assists.
The Wildcats followed that effort with a 58-40 home loss to Woodstock on Feb. 3. It was only the second loss of the season for 14-2 Twin Valley. Brett Swanson was TV’s top score with 10 points, while Molner had nine points and eight rebounds.
• John Winslow had 26 points and 16 rebounds to lead Otter Valley to a 64-52 win over Leland & Gray in Brandon on Feb. 6. Connor Gallipo added 11 for the 11-3 Otters. Ryan Borgesen led 5-8 Leland & Gray with 21 points, while Corey Nystrom added 15.
• Declan King and Isabella Thurber were the top finishers for Brattleboro in a seven-team meet on Feb. 4 at Mountain Top resort in Chittenden.
King finished fifth as the Colonel boys were third behind Mount Anthony and Woodstock. Rounding out the top five were Jonah Koch (12th), Phelan Muller (13th), Spencer Loggia (14th) and Isaac Frietas-Eagan (16th).
The Colonel girls didn’t have enough skiers to qualify for a team score. Thurber came in ninth, followed by Catey Yost (16th), and Alicia Loyola (21st).
Harris Hill ski jump tickets now on sale
• The annual Harris Hill ski jump competition is this weekend in Brattleboro. Saturday’s Pepsi Challenge and Sunday’s Fred Harris Memorial Tournament will also be part of the International Skiing Federation’s FIS Cup Series and USA Ski Jumping’s U.S. Cup series.
Gates open at 10 a.m. each day, and competition starts at 11 a.m. and concludes by 4 p.m. Tickets at the gate are $20 for adults, $15 for kids 6-12; kids 5 and younger are free. Payment at the gate is cash or check only.
Tickets can be purchased at a discounted rate ($15 adults, $12 youth) in advance through Feb. 13 at Galanes Vermont Shop, Zephyr Designs, Avenue Grocery, Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Burrows Specialized Sports, and Grafton Village Cheese in Brattleboro.
For more information, visit www.HarrisHillSkiJump.com.