Canes Storm to Victory in OT
Hartford Builds Postseason Momentum
Woodstock head coach Charlie Hancock shouts from the bench during Hartford at Woodstock boys hockey in Woodstock, Vt., on February 19, 2014. Hartford won in overtime. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock's Haven Lantz lines up for a shot during Hartford at Woodstock boys hockey in Woodstock, Vt., on February 19, 2014. Hartford won in overtime. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — Hartford High freshman forward Ben Rouillard will have more big games over the next three winters in Hurricane red, white and blue. But he’ll have few that matched the significance of his two-goal outburst in the Canes’ 3-2 overtime defeat of Woodstock on Wednesday night at jam-packed Union Arena.
The reason: Rouillard’s tallies may be the signal to Vermont Division II that Hartford is going to be a tough out with the state tournament about to start.
Rouillard gave the Canes (13-5-2) their first lead and last lead of the night, the latter a one-time blast off a Nate Lemieux pass past Woodstock goalie Connor Black 84 seconds into the five-minute OT. On a night when the Wasps (14-4-2) limited their guests to just 13 shots on goal, Rouillard’s work — and that of sophomore Lemieux and senior Nick Terino, his linemates — told the rest of D-II that coach Todd Bebeau’s crew may have the second scoring line he’s sought all winter.
“What you’ve seen tonight is basically what’s been going on, say, the last five games — our second line has really come together,” said Bebeau, whose Hurricanes put a halt to Woodstock’s five-game winning streak and 12-game unbeaten run. “They’ve scored some big goals down the stretch, and that gives us secondary scoring. It’s an incredibly valuable thing to have, not having to rely on our first line all night long. Once again, that second line came through big time for us.”
The loss dropped Woodstock from first to a tie for third in the D-II standings, but coach Charlie Hancock didn’t think it would prevent the Wasps from getting a bye in the first-round of states. The Vermont Principals Association will release the tournament field this morning.
“We came out in the first two periods and didn’t play well, simple as that,” Hancock said. “We didn’t skate. We didn’t move our feet. Hartford took advantage of it.”
Hartford’s ace line of seniors Andrew Atkinson, Jeff Lyford and John Borchert entered the night with a combined 51 of the Canes’ 82 goals. That kind of concentration leads opponents to defensively lock them down, making it imperative for someone else on Bebeau’s bench to produce.
Tied at 1-1 in the third period, Rouillard jumped at the chance to vary Hartford’s offensive fortunes. The freshman wing forced a turnover inside the Woodstock blue line, then ripped a shot low to Black’s left at 8:43 for the Canes’ first lead.
Rouillard broke through after taking a Bebeau second-intermission message to heart.
“He struggled the first two periods,” the Hartford coach said. “The message was very simple: Breathe, relax and use your God-given ability. Move your feet. And he did that.”
Woodstock ratcheted up the pressure on Hartford goaltender Mak Lyford (26 saves) the rest of regulation, finally scoring moments after pulling Black (10 saves) as Terino drew a tripping penalty with 1:03 to play.
Braden McCarthy won a faceoff to Lyford’s left, dropping the puck back to defenseman Nick Donaldson at the left point. Conor Joyce tipped Donaldson’s drive off Lyford’s left pad, the puck trickling up, over and into the net with 54.7 seconds on the clock.
“We’ve got a couple of tricks up our sleeve, I guess I could say,” Woodstock co-captain Ben Orr said. “We kind of ran them over and made sure our heads were on straight before we ran those plays.”
The winner — as was the case with goals from Woodstock’s Will Gault and Hartford’s Atkinson in the opening stanza — came off a pass from the rear boards. In this case, Terino and Lemieux cycled in the left corner, and Lemieux’s feed found Rouillard’s tape at the left hash for the winning drive past Black.
“I’m so proud of him for him to respond like that,” Bebeau said of Rouillard. “It shows that his maturity’s growing, and those are two tough goals that are held very high in his career for him.”
But not as much as what they might mean to what is now a wide-open D-II tournament forecast.
Ice Chips: Tiebreakers will play a big role in determining the order of the D-II tournament field today. Middlebury and Stowe share first place with 31 points, but the Raiders have one fewer loss. Mount Mansfield and the Wasps are right behind at 30 points, but MMU had one more win. And Hartford and Northfield are deadlocked at 28 points, but the Canes have one fewer victory. If all of the division’s 15 teams enter the tourney, Hartford and Woodstock will both host first-round games this weekend. … Rouillard’s brace doubled his goal output for the season. Atkinson’s tally was his 17th of the year for Hartford. … Gault tallied his 12th goal and Joyce added his eighth for the Wasps, who played the Canes to a 2-2 tie in White River Junction the week before Christmas. … The Vermont Boys Hockey Coaches Association named Hancock the Lake Division — essentially D-II — coach of the year earlier this week. “It’s an honor being named that,” Hancock said. “It was nice. It’s a team thing. If the guys don’t win 14 games, the assistant coaches, everybody; it’s a team thing.” … Borchert and defenseman Jeremy McGlone represented Hartford on the all-league first team; Jeff Lyford made the second team, Atkinson the third. … Woodstock placed Donaldson on the all-league second team, Orr received honorable mention and Black was selected for the all-rookie squad. … Hartford’s all-league quartet was also chosen to play in next month’s Rotary All-Star Classic, from which Vermont’s team for summer’s Make-a-Wish Classic against New Hampshire will be drawn. Donaldson and Orr will represent Woodstock in the Rotary game; Joyce was chosen as an alternate.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.