Does it get any better than this for Skylar Platt and Harwood? Platt netted the state championship game-winning goal 1:52 into overtime to give Harwood a 3-2 win over Milton in the Vermont Division 2 state championship at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
It was Harwood’s third state championship in school history and its first in 15 years. The Highlanders finished 20-3-0. The Yellowjackets, which came storming back from down 2-0 to tie and send the game into the extra session, finished 16-5-2.
Tyson Sylvia took a feed from Gavin Thomsen and gave the eventual state champs a 1-0 lead. Platt fed Finn O’Hara after a faceoff win, and O’Hara beat Milton goalie Jackson Ehler for a 2-0 edge.
Owen Perry’s feed to Nicholas Desouza led to the latter’s goal past Harwood netminder Liam Guyette, making it 2-1. Chris Lefebvre took the puck on a rebound from Cooper Goodrich’s shot and tied it at 2-2 early in the third.
Jacob Green assisted on Platt’s overtime winner, though, and the championship banner was in the works.
“We no doubt started a little slow,” said Harwood coach Jacob Grout, a Harwood alum in his rookie season as coach. “MVU came at us hard in the first game and gave us a good run for our money. Our workhorses Sky and Finn pulled through for us like they have so many times this season.”
“Hartford had our backs against the ropes with an early 2-0 lead, but that is the worst lead in hockey,” Grout said. “I am a firm believer if you can’t make it to 3-0, you are going to have a tough time putting the nail in the coffin. The boys battled hard and never gave up. We showed why we were the No. 1 team. The 2-0 theory held true for us in the championship game against Milton. We couldn’t get that three-goal lead and we let them walk back into the game. Again, the boys never gave up. They dug deep and got the job done. These boys are gladiators with the hearts of champions. They may not have given it 100% every shift, but you aren’t human if you can do that. All around, these boys outworked everyone.”
Grout said Milton was doing a great job holding Harwood at bay with shot opportunities on the power play going into overtime.
As for the overtime winner by Platt, Grout said he yelled at his defensemen to hustle back for the puck after Milton sent the puck to the Harwood defensive end.
“I looked up and saw 16 seconds on clock and thinking to myself, it’s now or never,” Grout said. “Jake Green delivered a pass to Skylar Platt in the neutral zone. Platt picked his lane into the offensive zone and caught the defense on their heels. He made a nice toe drag around the first defensemen, protected the puck from the second one while splitting the defense and getting a shot off far side low on Milton. If there was a stick you wanted the puck on at the end of the game, it’s Skylar Platt.”
What made this team special all year? From the first meeting of the year the boys were focused, respectful and determined, their coach said.
“They thought they were shorted the year before, so they wanted to prove themselves,” Grout said. “They bought into my theory on the game. They bought into the family mentality that I wanted. They bonded. They became brothers, and they fought for each other. Of course there were guys who got way more playing than others this season, but those guys who carried the team always did it for the guys next to them on the bench.”
Harwood has now won state titles in 1990, 2005 and 2020. Last year, Harwood suffered a quarterfinal loss to Milton and went 7-10-3 on the regular season.
“I was not shy about telling the boys from day one that they had a championship caliber squad,” Grout said. “I watched game films from last year and new there needed to be a drastic change. I swore to the boys that we would be changing our style for the better. We became faster, we became better passers, we weren’t selfish anymore. Overall, though, I think the biggest strength of us was our bond. From the coaching staff to the boys, they knew we believed in them. From player to player, they became brothers. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have a reason to play, you can’t be successful. I didn’t teach much on X’s and O’s, I just put it in perspective what and who they needed to play for.”