Central/West D3 State Semifinal: Agawam roars back for win

Fran Sypek
Fran Sypek
Fran has covered hockey at all levels, NHL, AHL, junior, college and high school for the Springfield Republican from 1978-2013. His column "Hockey Talk'' appeared in the Sunday Republican. The hockey beat took him from Maine to Arizona in the United States and from Newfoundland to Alberta in Canada. Fran was the recipient of the Matthew Ryan Award for Outstanding Coverage of High School Hockey and the Janet McCormick Award from the Springfield Olympics. He then shifted from pros to college when the University of Massachusetts restored its program and joined Hockey East. Later, he continued covering the Boston Bruins and the Springfield Falcons. Fran's covered future NHL players from Western Massachusetts in Paul Fenton, Bob Kudelski, Rick Bennett and Bill Guerin. He is a member of the Bessone Award committee, which helps select the top high school hockey player in Western Mass. Fran was a goalie for Holyoke Community College in 1973-74 and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1977. Fran is currently a free lance writer living in Bondsville, Mass and grew up in Chicopee, Mass, has visited all 50 states, and is an avid photographer.

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Down by two goals early in the second period, there was one thing Agawam wasn’t about to do.

The word “panic” just is not in their vocabulary.

“We learned our lesson in games against Longmeadow and Westfield earlier this year,” defenseman Seamus Curran said.

Sure enough, Agawam stuck to its game plan and the Brownies rallied for three second period goals en route to a 5-2 victory over North Middlesex in a state Division III semifinal Thursday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Agawam improved to 18-3-2 and will face Watertown Sunday at TD Garden in Boston at 1 p.m. in the Division 3 state final.

AGAWAM GOALIE Connor McAnanama had 18 saves in the 5-2 win over North Middlesex (Fran Sypek photo)
AGAWAM GOALIE Connor McAnanama had 18 saves in the 5-2 win over North Middlesex (Fran Sypek photo)

North Middlesex closed at 19-2-2. It only lost to reigning state Division III champion Shrewsbury and Agawam, two years removed from the state Division IIIA title.

Agawam moved up a division following that title and North Middlesex made the move this season.

“Agawam came out and buried a couple of more chances than we did,” North Middlesex coach Mike McCarthy said. “They were a better team tonight.”

But not by much. There were ample scoring opportunities and Agawam’s Connor McAnanama (18 saves) and North Middlesex’ Marc Frederick (25 saves) took turns making outstanding saves.

“He (Frederick) made saves that I only see in my dreams,” McAnanama said. “But we have three great lines and every shot we take has a chance of going in.”

Following a scoreless first period, North Middlesex vaulted to a 2-0 second period lead on a pair of quick goals by Josh Miller. Both came on breakaways and were scored in a span of 1:24.

The Patriots were in transition when Miller got the puck and broke in alone. He connected 36 seconds into the period to give North Middlesex a 1-0 lead. Miller made it 2-0 on another breakaway at 3:10.

“Those goals were on me,” Agawam coach Rich Feeley said. “We weren’t communicating on the bench properly and I take full responsibility.”

Those quick goals certainly got Agawam’s attention. The Brownies rallied for three goals before the period expired to take a 3-2 lead into the final period.

“All year, we talked about how there’s bumps in the road and some of these kids have had to deal with real life issues, so this was not a big deal,” Feeley said. ”

John Passerini and Josh Colwell stunned the Patriots when they scored consecutive goals in a span of 23 seconds to tie the score at two apiece. Passerini scored unassisted at 3:35 before Colwell converted a feed from Cory Phau at 3:58.

Anthony Passerini got the go-ahead goal during a scramble in front of the net. Frederick appeared to stop the first shot by Passerini, but after making the save, the puck slid through his pads and in to provide the Brownies with a 3-2 edge.

“Those were hard-working goals,” Feeley said. At this point, they weren’t about to risk anything by not giving it their full effort.’

Curran, an offensive-minded defenseman, scored a power-play goal 5:12 into the third period to increase Agawam’s lead to 4-2. John Passerini set up the goal. Joe Mercadante closed the scoring in the waning seconds with an empty-net goal.

“Agawam was very opportunistic,” McCarthy said. “What they were able to do in front of our net, we weren’t able to do in front of theirs.”

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