There were seas of red filling the seats of Boston’s TD Garden on Sunday for the Division 1 championship between Burlington and Milton, but only one side could leave the fast-paced tilt happy.
It was the Red Devils who grabbed momentum early and poured it on late to snag the state title with a 6-2 win over the Wildcats.
Brian Hood gave Burlington a lead just 1:31 after the opening face off when he fired home a rebound to give his team a 1-0 edge. The Red Devils fought off a growing number of Milton chances later in the period to take the one-goal advantage into the intermission before scoring the next two goals to put a stranglehold on the game.
“It was an up and down game,” said Milton head coach Paul Noonan. “I thought if you were a hockey fan and you just came out to watch a game and see these two teams, you got your money’s worth.”
Trailing 3-0 with 2:03 left in the second period, Lloyd Hill cut into the deficit when he flicked the puck in the five-hole of Burlington goalie Derek DeCastro, who made 25 saves on the game.
But the Red Devils responded 1:16 into the final period when Dan McMahon made a pretty pivot along the goal line to make it 4-1. Trevor Cimino roofed one home two minutes later to make it 5-1 before Milton’s Brian Higgins cracked the scorebook with the second Wildcat goal of the game.
With 46 ticks left in the contest, Joe Berardi stole the puck and slide home the empty netter to set off a rauckus celebration on the Burlington side of the arena.
“From February 12 on, we didn’t know what direction we were going in,” said Red Devils head coach Bob Conceison. “We had tied four games in a row, and we didn’t know where we’d go. So this is a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of soul searching from the coaches and players to get here.”
Despite the setback, Milton’s run through the tournament breathed some life into the community, which supported the program through its road to The Garden.
“It’s the first time for the school,” said Noonan. “For the town, they were hanging posters and banners all over. It just got everybody back into the excitement of the high school hockey team.”
Burlington’s title game appearance didn’t surprise many. The Red Devils were selected for the Super 8 and fell in the play-in game, triggering a redeeming run through Division 1.
Conceison said his team was ready for any opponent it faced in the bracket because of the gauntlet of a schedule they played in the Middlesex League.
“The Middlesex League is a great public school league and always has been,” he said. “It’s a very tough league so you have to come to play every Wednesday night and Saturday against all of those teams. It gives you a good competitive edge when you get to the tournament.”