Bucks Bag First State Championship

Jubilant E.O. Smith-Tolland players race to embrace goaltender Matt Schoen after the final buzzer sounded in Saturday's 5-2 win over Masuk in the Div. III hockey championship game at Yale. Photo credit: Taylor Kemp Photography

Jubilant E.O. Smith-Tolland players race to embrace goaltender Matt Schoen after the final buzzer sounded in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Masuk in the Div. III hockey championship game at Yale. Photo credit: Taylor Kemp Photography

E.O. Smith-Tolland hockey coach John Hodgson could not have asked for a better belated birthday present.

Senior center Peter Mayer scored four goals and senior goaltender Matt Schoen stopped 32 shots to lead the Bucks to their first-ever Div. III hockey championship, as they outlasted Masuk, 5-2 Saturday at the Ingalls Rink at Yale University.

“It’s unbelievable, I can’t even believe this is true,” Mayer said.

“We felt like we had some depth and we knew that they ran two lines, so we wanted to keep the pace up and get it going,” Hodgson said. “A guy like Peter can strike from anywhere at any time, and that‘s what he did and got us going, while Matt stood on his head at the other end.”

E.O. Smith was outshot 10-5 in the opening period, but held a 3-0 lead thanks to a pair of goals by Peter Mayer and one by his younger brother, Nick.

“Pete and Nick are really efficient, they play hard and strike quick,” Hodgson said. “We came into the locker room knowing Masuk is right with us as a high-powered D-3 offense, so certainly the game’s not over when there’s 30 minutes left against them.”

On a 4-on-3 power play early in the second period, Peter Mayer completed his hat trick by slamming home the rebound of a Matthew McNeal slapshot from the right point.

Masuk had an apparent goal negated by an interference penalty to star winger Charlie Christo. Moments later, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Panther bench gave the Bucks a 5-on-3 advantage, which Peter Mayer quickly cashed in on with his fourth goal of the game with 1:02 to play before the second intermission.

Christo and Shane Dushay scored power play goals in the third period for Masuk, accounting for the only goals allowed by Schoen during the entire four-game tournament.

“He’s just a rock, he gets dialed in and he plays great positional hockey,” Hodgson said.

McNeal and Josh Barnes each picked up two assists, while Nick Mayer and Kyle Penney had one apiece.

The contest was a rematch of last year’s semifinal tilt, which was won by E.O. Smith-Tolland en route to a berth in the finals. Unfortunately, the Bucks lost the title game in overtime to Newtown.

“After that last game, we knew our one goal was to be back here,” Peter Mayer said. “The guys worked harder than ever in the off-season, and when it came to this game, we knew we did not want to feel that feeling (of defeat) again. We knew we had to play 100 percent every shift, and if we didn’t, we’d be feeling that again. This feels a lot better.”

Schoen said, “This season actually started last season. All the kids on the team last year that weren’t able to be here this year, we won it for them. That’s what I wanted the most, because we couldn’t get the job done last year, so it felt that much better to get it done this year.”

“We’ve known all year that if we were going to get here, we were likely going to have to beat Masuk for the second year in a row,” Hodgson said. “They’re a great team with great players, so it makes it mean that much more to accomplish that.”

“We have the best coaches in the state, they are amazing,” Schoen said. “They work us hard, they know how to push us, they know how to play the game and they taught us everything they know to win.”

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