Recorder: "WAVE SHOW HEART"

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H.S. HOCKEY: Bryan Baumann nets game-winning goal in OT, No. 1 Greenfield stuns No. 3 Wahconah, 2-1, in WMass Div. 3A championship

By JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer

Published: 3/5/2020 9:59:10 PM

Modified: 3/5/2020 9:58:57 PM

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Just 1 minute and 25 seconds separated the Greenfield hockey team from an untimely demise on Thursday night.

But as they have all season, the Green Wave believed.

With the goalie pulled and the seconds ticking away, Kyle Barnes netted the game-tying goal with 1:25 to play in regulation. That set the stage for senior Bryan Baumann, who took a feed from Jacob Bryant and notched the game-winner just 1:49 into overtime.

From the doorstep of elimination to a sectional title in the blink of an eye, top-seeded Greenfield captured the Western Mass. Division 3A championship on the strength of a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Wahconah at the Olympia Ice Center.

 “We’re good at facing adversity,” said Baumann of his team’s come-from-behind victory. “We never gave up on ourselves, never gave up on each other. That’s why we were able to come out on top at the end.”

Wahconah (16-4-2) scored what looked like the game’s only tally just 3:25 into the opening period. Ryan LaPierre beat his defender up the ice, got in alone and snuck a shot past Greenfield goalie Riley Drew to stake the Warriors to a quick 1-0 lead.

“I knew it was a weak goal on my part,” Drew said of the lone Wahconah tally. “I wasn’t square and that’s why it went in. After that, I said, ‘Nothing is getting by me now.’ I had to stand on my head and prove that, and I didn’t give up another goal the rest of the game.”

That tally held up for the next 40 minutes, and Wahconah goalie Jake Risley looked like he was going to steal the trophy back to the Berkshires thanks to a standout performance between the pipes. The senior backstop turned away the first 34 shots he faced, enabling Wahconah to hold that 1-0 lead deep into the third period.

Greenfield pulled Drew for an extra attacker with 1:29 remaining and a faceoff in the Wahconah zone. Off the draw, Baumann managed to hold possession. He fired a pass toward the back post, where Barnes was waiting. Left wide open, he redirected a shot past Risley for the first time all night, bringing the Wave level with 1:25 to go.

“That faceoff play, we had a blown coverage and (Barnes) was wide open,” Wahconah coach Matt Risley said. “Nothing Jake could’ve done on that.”

The tally sharply shifted momentum toward a Greenfield team that found itself with newfound life.

“After we scored that goal with less than two minutes left in the game, all the momentum went to our bench,” Baumann said. “They were tired, and that really boosted our morale.”

The buzzer sounded to end regulation, and the teams had a matter of moments to re group before the first sudden death overtime period as the ice was not cleared before the extra session. High school hockey rules in the postseason call for an eight-minute, 4-on-4 overtime, followed by a 3-on-3 session and then finally, a shootout.

The quick turnaround had Greenfield feeling positive about its chances to win the game in OT.

“We knew on the 4-on-4 ice, there was going to be a lot of room out there,” Greenfield head coach Adam Bouchard said. “With the speed and skill that our team possesses, if we got into that situation we knew it could be a good advantage for us.”

On the other bench, Risley knew his team had their backs against the wall due to the equalizer and subsequent fast turnaround.

“It’s hard to flip momentum in hockey,” the Wahconah coach explained. “You’re as positive as you can, telling the guys to keep grinding and keep their feet moving. But at that point, we were pretty spent. (Greenfield) had all the momentum, all the adrenaline, and they were able to win the game. They earned it.”

On the game-winner, Bryant flipped a lead pass to Baumann, who beat his defender and got in alone on Risley in net. While Baumann, the team’s leading scorer, didn’t get good wood on the puck, he did enough to slide the biscuit past the Wahconah keeper, setting off a raucous celebration with gloves and sticks scattered throughout the ice surface at the Olympia.

“For me, it’s awesome. For everyone, it’s awesome. I just did my part of the thing, Jacob slid a good pass, everyone else played a great game and I was lucky enough to be the one to tuck it home,” Baumann said.

The goal was well-timed by Baumann, who hadn’t found the back of the net the past few contests entering Thursday’s final.

“Bryan’s been pointless the last three games,” Bouchard began. “He came in tonight, vowed to score for his team. When Bryan scores, good things happen. He’s a great leader, gives everything he has, and everyone falls behind his lead.”

The Western Mass. title is the second in program history and first since 2008. Greenfield improved to 2-3 in sectional finals.

“I’m extremely proud of those student-athletes in that room,” Bouchard lauded. “These boys have worked harder than everyone else I know. They work as hard as they can every single day and it showed.”

Greenfield finished with a 37-15 edge in shots on goal, including a decisive 27-6 margin between the second and third periods. Drew finished with 14 saves, including the final 12 shots he faced after the early Wahconah tally.