Title test for Redhawks hockey (2/25/10)

Boys try to repeat as state champs

Feb. 25, 2010

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Don’t know if members of the Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team say “lovin’ it” about McDonald’s burgers, but they sure are loving the pressure of the Division 1 postseason playoffs.

Tuesday night, the defending champions became the first seventh-seeded team to advance to the championship contest by virtue of a 4-2 victory over third-seeded North Country Union High (14-8-1) at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse.

The 13-8-2 Redhawks now wait until 8 p.m. on Tuesday to take on fourth-seeded Spaulding High of Barre (15-6-2) for the Big Trophy. Spaulding nipped Bellows Free Academy, 1-0, in the other semifinal.

Coach Doug Hopper’s recharged crew, now in its third straight title test, has bounced back from losses in its final three regular season games to capture three straight playoff wins. The victories include an opening 4-1 home victory over Burr and Burton followed by Saturday’s 6-3 triumph over second-seeded South Burlington High.

One of the primary engineers Tuesday was junior forward Robbie Dobrowski, who assisted on CVU’s first goal and then added two of his own in a 78-second stretch midway through the first period that gave the Redhawks a quick 3-0 lead and brought both grins and concern to the CVU coaching staff.

“I was afraid that after getting that kind of lead that quick we might start to sit back and we did,” Hopper said.

The Falcons, who beat the Hawks 4-2 two weeks ago at Cairns Arena, were held without a shot on goal by hard charging CVU until the 12:32 mark of the opening reel, when Trevor Gray launched a power play blast from the left point over the left shoulder of Hawks’ net minder Mark Albertson.

“I hardly saw it,” Albertson said of the shot. The senior also admitted that it had been strange not seeing the puck coming his way for almost the entire first period, but business returned after that and he had several sharp stops among his 11 saves, nine of those in a second period in which NCU dominated play.

“We got going again with 10 minutes to go in the game,” Hopper said.

That was after Gray scored on another power play goal 6:22 into the final stanza to bring the Falcons back to within 3-2.

Senior forward Nate Lacroix provided the capper with 32.9 seconds left when, from deep in his own zone, he banked the puck off the left boards and into an empty Falcon net, just abandoned a moment before by pulled goalie Chris Bronson (19 saves).

Dobrowski had himself a party in that first period explosion, which hiked his playoff scoring to six goals in three games and added to the career 100 point total he reached against South Burlington.

He opened the flurry with a hard sortie into NCU’s zone that drew a boarding penalty. On the ensuing power play, teammate Kyle Logan knocked in a rebound, on which Dobrowski drew an assist.

Just over a minute later, Dobrowski knocked in a rebound of a Lacroix shot for a 2-0 lead. Just 13 seconds later, the smooth skater moved into the Falcons’ zone and shifted to the right of the goal and unleashed a high shot into the cage for the third score. Mayson Kropf got the assist.

He may have had more goals but hit the posts twice on point blank shots and launched another blast just inches over the cross bar.

“It can be frustrating, hitting the posts in big games,” said Dobrowski, who nevertheless was pleased with the number of scoring opportunities and the way the team came back to reassert itself over the final 10 minutes.

He added that it was one of the most physical games of the season, noting that he was flattened a few times.

It will be CVU’s 15th visit to the championship game. The Redhawks are 11-10 in semifinals.