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The road to the Stanley Cup began in Brattleboro for Bruins

The Vermont connection to the Boston Bruins’ victory in the Stanley Cup final goes beyond the presence of University of Vermont alumnus Tim Thomas in goal.

If we dare to be so presumptuous, Brattleboro can argue that this town played an important role in the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972.

On Sept. 26 and 27, just before the team was to head to the Czech Republic to start the 2010-11 season, the Bruins came to the High 5 Adventure Learning Center, which is located on the Austine School campus, for two days of team-building exercises.

The campus was sealed off to outsiders so the players could concentrate on the physical and mental exercises that were designed to exorcise the ugly end to the 2009-10 season. The Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, and they became only the third team in NHL history to lose a seven-game playoff series after winning the first three games.

“It was the only way to approach it at the time,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told ESPN.com earlier this month. “We did take a lot of care and planning in setting up the training camp. The way last year ended wasn’t very fun, and we knew it would have an impact on the team, and we had to address it in the right way.”

That’s why Chiarelli and the Bruins’ brain trust decided to send the team to High 5.

“I know it’s a common thing that teams do, but we paid a lot of attention to it because we really felt it was important for the psyche of the team,” said Chiarelli. “Picture our team up on the hill. There’s all these elevated rope courses where the guys would have to partner up, and there’s an element of trust built into it. Then there was a tent on the hill where the guys would go through mental exercises and discussion exercises. It was team-building stuff, but it was amped up.”

Did it make a difference? Well, in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins lost the first two games of the series against the Montreal Canadiens. They rallied back to beat the Canadiens in seven games. They faced the Flyers again in the second round, and swept them in four games. They faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, and hung on to win the series in seven games.

Talent can get you to the brink of a Stanley Cup, but mental toughness and resilience is what separates the winners from the losers. After two heartbreaking losses to the Vancouver Canucks in the finals, the Bruins responded with a total beatdown of the Canucks at the Garden, winning Games 3 and 4 by a combined score of 12-1.

Another 1-0 loss in Vancouver in Game 5 was followed up by a 5-2 win in Game 6 in Boston in a contest that was all but over after the first 10 minutes. With the Cup on the line in Game 7, the Bruins flew back to Vancouver and dominated the Canucks in a 4-0 victory.

To win two playoff series after losing the first two games was a sign of the resilience and mental toughness of this year’s team. It’s safe to say last season’s Bruins were lacking it. But, to be fair, Tim Thomas wasn’t in goal for the Bruins last season.

So, Mr. Chiarelli, since the road to the Stanley Cup began in Brattleboro, we think it is only fair that the Cup makes an appearance in Brattleboro.

Post 37 wins Legion opener

Coach Bob Lockerby excels at getting his teams to play “small ball,” and manufacture runs with bunts and aggressive baserunning. The strategy that helped the Bellows Falls Terriers be successful this season is carrying over into the American Legion Baseball season, as Bellows Falls Post 37 defeated Brattleboro Post 5, 2-1, in the season opener for both teams on Monday at Tenney Field.

It was a pitchers’ duel, as Post 37’s Derek Osborne and Post 5’s Drew Barnum both turned in strong performances. Barnum went the distance and struck out 4 in taking the loss; he gave up 5 hits and 2 walks, and hit 2 batters. Osborne came out in the sixth inning, having allowed 6 hits and 4 walks while striking out two. Jeremy Kilburn finished up and got the win, giving up just 1 hit and striking out 2.

Post 37 scored first in the fifth as Miles Schilling reached second on an error, moved to third on an infield error, and scored on an attempted double steal. Post 5 tied it when Soren Pelz-Walsh walked and scored on a Jamie Martell double. What proved to be the winning run came in the Post 37 sixth, as Cooper Long was hit by a pitch, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored an error on a ground ball hit by Kilburn.

International Colonials to play in Brattleboro

The International Colonials basketball team, comprised of 10 high school players from 10 countries, will start its 2011 Vermont tour with a game against Brattleboro and the Marble Valley League All Stars to be played at Brattleboro Union High School at Wednesday, June 29, and Thursday June 30. Both games start at 6 p.m., and both are open to the public.

Countries represented on the 2011 International Colonials teams are Austria, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Sweden. This International Colonials 2011 tour celebrates the 31th anniversary of the New England Colonials International Basketball Club.

Founded in 1980 by Walpole, Mass., residents Dick Lawless and Scott Bryson, Colonials’ teams do not hold tryouts and rely on references and an assessment of the applicant’s commitment to school, community, and basketball. It is a nonprofit, all-volunteer program that has as its central purpose the support and encouragement of international friendship and understanding between New England student-athletes and their peers around the world.

The 10 players on the 2011 International Colonials are recommended to the program by their school and club coaches overseas. Many play for their national teams. Their New England tour includes games and homestays in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. To learn more about the Colonials, visit www.NewEnglandColonials.net, or contact Peter Boyle at peteboyle@comcast.net or 802-236-7686.

CRVBL results

• The Chester Pirates maintained their hold on first place in the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League with a 16-1 rout of the Putney Fossils on Sunday. Chester’s Scott Renfro struck 15 in throwing a complete game two-hitter. He also went 3-for-5 with a double and 4 RBIs.

Claremont is still a half-game back of Chester, as the Cardinals won their fifth straight in beating the Saxtons River Pirates, 10-7. Claremont’s Mike Wells gave up 14 hits, but went all the way to get the win, and helped his cause with a two-run homer.

The Brattleboro River Rats beat the Keene Black Dawgs, 10-7, to move out of last place. The River Rats broke a 4-4 tie with 3 runs in the seventh inning, and then scored 3 more in the eighth. Rats’ starter Eric Webber got the win, and Kenny Sloat picked up the save. Rob Eccleston drove in 4 runs with 3 hits.

Putney is at Saxtons River on Friday for a non-league game at 6 p.m. This Sunday, Putney plays Brattleboro at Dummerston School in a doubleheader starting at 10 a.m. Saxtons River and Chester square off at Green Mountain Union High School at 10 a.m., while Keene travels north to Claremont to play the Cardinals in a doubleheader at Barnes Park starting at 11 a.m.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #106 (Wednesday, June 22, 2011).

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