Wildcats Move Into Division II Finals

Some happy Wildcats realize they're heading to the state championship game. Photo credit: Doreen McWhirter

Some happy Wildcats realize they’re heading to the state championship game. Photo credit: Doreen McWhirter

An early offensive explosion, combined with solid defense and goaltending, powered Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks into the Div. II ice hockey finals with a 5-3 win over Branford Monday night at Yale University.

The second-seeded Wildcats netted four goals in the first four minutes of the contest, watched the Hornets come back to within one, then added the insurance clincher in the final minute to ensure its first championship game appearance in 15 years.

“It was an unbelievable game,” understated Wildcat head coach Nick Boorman.

The tri-op came flying out of the locker room with a goal by Jake Bourdeau, assisted by Brendan Looney and Colin MacDougald, at the 2:05 mark. Just 11 seconds later, Jake Pallotti found the net off assists by Ryan Ohannissian and Isaac Stevens for a 2-0 advantage.

The Wildcats were just getting warmed up. Jake King converted assists from Austin Rupp and Mitch Bielonko into a 3-0 lead, then Bourdeau netted his second of the game at 3:46, set up by Looney and MacDougald.

In a span of 101 seconds, the Wildcats had amassed a nearly insurmountable lead, but Branford hung tough and showed why it has achieved great success over the years. The third-seeded Hornets scored midway through the first period, then added a pair of goals in the second period to creep back within one at 4-3.

From there, goaltender Shane Kertanis, who finished with 30 saves, and the Wildcat defense proved their worth, rebuffing every Branford opportunity. Finally, with just over 43 seconds to play, Craig Montemerlo scored into an empty net off a pass from Bourdeau to punch the Wildcats’ ticket to the title matchup.

“We knew that no matter what we did in the beginning that Branford was going to be a worthy adversary, but I had full faith in my guys,” Boorman said. “We have incredible heart and incredible team unity.”

Suffield-Granby-Windsor Locks will return to the Ingalls Rink at Yale to face No. 4 North Branford Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Wildcats will be seeking the third Div. II championship in program history, having won it all in 1979 and 2000. North Branford will be making its first title game appearance.

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