Where to begin? Simple — with the crazy finish to Saturday afternoon’s NHIAA Division 3 championship rematch between No. 4 Belmont-Gilford and No.2 Berlin-Gorham at The Verizon Center.
Down a goal and holding a 6-on-3 skater advantage via two Mountaineers’ penalties and goalie Bailey Defosie on the bench, the defending champion Bulldogs thought they had tied the game with time running out. However, Dylan Treamer’s shot from the high slot hit the crossbar, caromed off the right post then skittered left, hugging but never crossing the goal line, waved off by the referee stationed directly behind the goal.
As a result, Berlin-Gorham (16-4-0) ended a 40-year title drought with its pulsating 2-1 win. It was the Mountaineers’ first title since having claimed nine in a 14-year stretch from 1963-76.
Last year Belmont-Gilford (14-7-0) prevailed in OT, 3-2, after tying the game in the final minute.
“What a great feeling. It’s indescribable. These guys all have fathers, uncles and grandfathers who won championships so it’s great for them to now win one of their own. It’s going to mean so much for the community,” said Berlin-Gorham coach Mike Poulin. “It was a little deja vu on the bench in the final minute, just like last year’s game.”
Belmont-Gilford coach Jay Londer asked for a replay review but the NHIAA does not have that protocol in place and the goal stood.
“I don’t mind losing but not that’s hard to swallow. I thought it was a goal. Not taking away from Berlin-Gorham — they played hard, they deserve to be champions. I just think we got hosed on that call,” Londer said.
Berlin-Gorham enjoyed a territorial edge during a physical first period, generating a number of odd-man rushes that came up empty. Early on, Mountaineers’ goalie Brenden Williams (28 saves) flashed his pad on Caleb Drouin’s labeled shot from the mid slot. When Dylan Treamer weaved his way through Berlin-Gorham’s defense, Williams dropped to smother Treamer’s attempt at a 5-hole stuff with one second left in the period.
The Bulldogs struck first at 3:24 of the second period. Drouin won a 50/50 puck,worked his way off the left wall to the right circle and snapped a shot along the ice that beat Williams 5-hole. Christian Karagianis and Treamer drew the assists.
Berlin-Gorham pulled even on the second of three consecutive power plays midway through the period. Nathan Trull’s pass from the left wall found Noah Schoenbeck for a short-side re-direct off the near post and right pad of Bulldogs’ goalie Defosie (18 saves) to make it 1-1 with 5:38 left in the period.
The Mountaineers needed just 13 seconds to convert a power play midway through the third period. Quick passes in close quarters by Owen Dorval and Evan Valliere set up a wide open Trevor Labrecque on the back side and the senior didn’t miss, burying the ultimate game-winner with 7:32 to play.
Williams then went to work personally frustrating Drouin down the stretch. There were two key stops on Drouin testers from the left circle and high slot. And, with 2:27 to play, Williams slid to his left to calmly steer aside Drouin’s short-handed attempt.
“Brenden gave us great goaltending and had a great year. He finished the season so strong,” said Poulin.