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H.S. HOCKEY: Bryan Baumann’s game-winning goal lifts Greenfield past Lunenburg, 3-2, for first-ever state championship

By JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer

Published: 3/7/2020 7:12:34 PM

WORCESTER — When was the last time you did something for the first time?

The Greenfield hockey team made history on Saturday. For the first time in program history, the Green Wave rode back to Franklin County with a state title. Just two days removed from only the second sectional championship in its history, Greenfield did one better on Saturday.

Bryan Baumann scored the game-winning goal with just 1 minute, 31 seconds remaining in regulation, and Greenfield knocked off Central Mass. champion Lunenburg/Ayer-Shirley, 3-2, in the MIAA Division 3A state final before a capacity crowd at the Hart Center on the campus of Holy Cross.

Greenfield, which got a win in its first-ever state tournament game, capped its season with a 20-3 overall record, while Lunenburg ended with a 13-10-1 mark.

“This is huge for our program,” began Greenfield head coach Adam Bouchard. “This is going to be something that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

For Baumann, the senior captain who attends Frontier Regional School, it was a second consecutive game-winning goal to close out his high school hockey career. The team’s leading scorer sent fans home happy in overtime during the Western Mass. final two nights earlier against Wahconah, and followed that up with another tally to help Greenfield lift a trophy on Saturday.

“I remember my freshman year, that 1-19 season,” Baumann offered. “It's awesome to see the program come together and grow to be successful just in the four years that I’ve been here.”

Locked in a 2-2 game and his team on the precipice of a second consecutive overtime contest, Baumann took matters into his own hands. He pounced on a loose puck near center ice, skated into the Lunenburg zone and unleashed a wrist-shot that further etched his name into Greenfield hockey lore. The puck found its way past Lunenburg goaltender Nick Granger, giving the Wave a 3-2 lead with 1:31 remaining.

“I picked up the puck around center ice, one defenseman to beat,” recalled Baumann of the game winner. “He backed up real deep so I used him as a screen and ripped a low shot, found the back of the net. It had eyes.”

Bouchard said his senior captain made an adjustment, and simplified things down the stretch.

“We actually talked on the bench, he was trying to make one extra move,” the Greenfield coach said of Baumann. “The defense was catching onto that. We decided one move and shoot. And boy, did he deliver.”

Greenfield wasn’t out of the woods after Baumann’s go-ahead goal, however. Lunenburg pulled Granger with 1:08 remaining for an extra attacker, and with 35 seconds to go, Booie Harris was whistled for a cross-check in the Greenfield defensive zone. That set up a frenetic final half minute, with the Blue Knights on a 6-on-4 advantage.

“We can do this,” Baumann said of the team’s message for one final penalty kill. “We work hard all year for this moment, you’ve got to believe in each other, believe in yourselves.”

Greenfield survived, and Baumann took possession with eight seconds remaining. He managed to skate out the clock with the puck on his stick.

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Photo credit: Dan Little / Recorder

“We were pretty confident in knowing what we had to do,” Bouchard said of the final seconds. “We knew we had to get the puck out, knew they had to block some shots. We’re just so proud and so happy to come out on top.”

After a back-and-forth start where the teams got to know one another, Greenfield struck for the game’s first tally. A shot from the point was knocked down by Granger, but the rebound fell to a waiting Derek Lenois on the doorstep. Lenois made no doubt about it, gathering the puck to his back hand and slotting a low shot underneath Granger’s pads with 3:37 remaining to give the Wave a 1-0 advantage.

Greenfield didn’t take a penalty in three-plus periods against Wahconah during Thursday’s Western Mass. title game, but the Wave were whistled for their first of the state final just moments after the go-ahead strike. A bench minor for too many men quickly halted their momentum, and the Blue Knights didn’t waste much time pulling even.

The Central Mass. champs worked their triangle power-play set to perfection, and Nathan Handy eventually found a wide-open Hunter Arsenault in the slot. With room to operate, Arsenault slapped a one-timer that beat Greenfield goalie Riley Drew and made it 1-1 less than two minutes removed from Lenois’ goal.

Lunenburg took its first lead of the game early in the second period. Jason Brandy kept the puck in the Greenfield zone after a failed clearance attempt, and he roofed a shot with 10:30 left to make it a 2-1 game.

Finding itself in a familiar predicament, Greenfield rallied yet again. This time it was freshman Shane Prusak, who put himself in the perfect spot to pounce on a rebound. With 3:29 left in the middle frame, a Jacob Bryant blast squirted through Granger and fell behind him, allowing Prusak to get his stick on the puck and brush it home to pull the Wave even again.

“Adversity. It’s been the word all year for us,” Baumann said. “Being able to overcome barriers as a team and pick each other up.”

NOTES: It was a packed house at the Hart Center, which lists its capacity for hockey at 1,600. “What a great environment for high school hockey,” Bouchard lauded. “Unbelieveable atmosphere.” … Greenfield’s win on Thursday marked just the second Western Mass. title in program history. The other came in 2008. There was no state tournament that year, as the 3A format was brand new. “There really is some great program history here,” Bouchard said. “This team that just played tonight would never have gotten here without the last 78 or so years that this program has had.” … Longmeadow defeated Wachusett, 3-2, in the MIAA Division 3 semifinal following the Greenfield-Lunenburg game. The Lancers advanced to next week’s state final at the TD Garden in Boston. Greenfield beat Longmeadow, the WMass Div. 3 champ, during the regular-season meeting, 3-1, at Collins-Moylan Arena on Feb. 12.