March 6th, 2014
By Mal Boright
Ah yes, finalists once again.
The 19-1-2 Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team will once again tangle with old friend 15-5-1 Essex Thursday night (8 p.m.) at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium for the Metro Division’s championship metal.
The two schools last met on the UVM ice where crowns are bestowed in 2011 with the Redhawks scoring a tight 1-0 victory. Overall, the two are 4-4 against each other in “the Big Ones.”
In all, CVU has been to the finals 13 times and in six of the last seven years. The Hornets have showed up for the big clash on 19 occasions, including 10 of the past 15 seasons.
CVU punched its finals ticket Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory over 14-8 Colchester High on a pair of goals by junior forward Cam Rivard.
According to CVU head coach Mike Murray, his Redhawks have a challenge of another kind coming at them Thursday.
“Essex is a different team than the one we played tonight,” Murray said after the game. “They (Essex) have four different lines so we are not going to wear them down.”
Goalie Greg Talbot agreed and added, “Essex plays strong defense. If we play well, we will be okay.”
Talbot has allowed but a single goal in two regular season meetings with the Hornets and that was in a 5-1 CVU victory at the home Cairns rink. Late last month, the two teams played to a scoreless deadlock at Essex.
Outskated by whizzing CVU forwards for most of the game, Colchester did not go easily into the annals of the Metro semifinals.
Despite a 13-2 advantage in first period shots—an accurate reflection of geographical play—CVU did not get on the board until there were seven minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the second period when Rivard, on his rear end in front of the Lakers’ cage, jammed home the rebound from a sharp blast from freshman Thomas Samuelsen.
What might become known as Cam’s Butt Shot was his initial playoff goal.
“I was totally surprised,” Rivard said. “I was lucky it landed there.”
There was only great skill in the second score that came just minutes later with 5:12 to go. Ryan Keelan darted into Colchester territory with the puck and crossed to an charging Rivard, who deposited a backhand shot into the cage past helpless Laker goalie Erik Swan, who had 26 stops for the night.
Down in shots on goal 22-5 and trailing 2-0 as the teams went into the third period, Colchester cut the lead in half with 10:59 left when senior Ryan Francis took pass from Laker star and captain Matty Cuce and beat an over-extended Talbert.
“I knew there was a guy backdoor, but I thought Cuce would go for a one-time wrap-around shot,” said Talbert.
The Lakers then had their best sustained offensive work of the game and mounted two serious thrusts in the final minute with an extra skater (and empty net behind them), but Talbert with a save (seven in the period, 12 for the game) and defenseman Kaleb Godbout’s clearing effort in the final seconds sent the Redhawks to Thursday night.
Essex earned its finals trip with a 4-2 home semifinal win over North Country Union last weekend.
For Colchester, which gained the semifinal with an overtime win over South Burlington on a Cuce goal, it was its fourth loss to the Redhawks. CVU prevailed earlier 2-1 at the December Beech Tournament, and by 10-1 and 4-1 in home and home games.