Hartford boys complete hockey sweep for Hurricanes

Hartford seniors, from left, Brayden Trombly, Brody Tyburski and Ryan Spaulding cheer from the student section during the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Hartford won, 3-1. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford seniors, from left, Brayden Trombly, Brody Tyburski and Ryan Spaulding cheer from the student section during the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Hartford won, 3-1. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford Tighe Hrabchak, left, and Frankie Cushing celebrate a goal by Ezra Mock with 11 seconds remaining in the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford Tighe Hrabchak, left, and Frankie Cushing celebrate a goal by Ezra Mock with 11 seconds remaining in the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford forward Logan Caffrey (14) fights for the puck against Colchester’s Xander Berthiaume (20) while Hartford defenseman Cavan Benjamin (4) holds off Colchester’s Noah Toof (11) during the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford forward Logan Caffrey (14) fights for the puck against Colchester’s Xander Berthiaume (20) while Hartford defenseman Cavan Benjamin (4) holds off Colchester’s Noah Toof (11) during the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford’s Cavan Benjamin (4), Nick Daniels (6) and Ezra Mock (10) celebrate after winning the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford’s Cavan Benjamin (4), Nick Daniels (6) and Ezra Mock (10) celebrate after winning the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Hartford head coach Todd Bebeau congratulates Ezra Mock after winning the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford head coach Todd Bebeau congratulates Ezra Mock after winning the VPA D-II boys hockey championship game against Colchester at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-06-2024 4:44 PM

BURLINGTON — Hartford High boys hockey coach Todd Bebeau was conducting a postgame interview outside the Hurricanes’ Gutterson Field House locker room Tuesday night when the conversation was interrupted by the exit of a screaming Ezra Mock.

The senior, equipment bag over his shoulder, bounced into the arms of nearby athletic director Jeff Moreno.

“We did it!” Mock shouted, exultant in the wake of Hartford’s 3-1 defeat of Colchester and its first Vermont Division II state title since 2009. “We f------ did it!”

Two years prior, there had been dead silence in the same setting. The Hurricanes had blown a three-goal lead in the third period to lose to Milton, and Bebeau, consumed by sadness for his players, had stood stooped and alone a little farther down the hallway.

Hartford didn’t reach Gutterson last season, falling in the semifinals to eventual champion U32. So the repeated roars that emanated from the Hurricanes locker room before Mock’s appearance were heartfelt and long in the making.

“What a night for the Hartford hockey community,” Bebeau said, gesturing to a nearby table and the Division II championship trophy won by his school’s girls team two hours prior. “This is what high school sports is all about. You could not have written a better script.”

Siblings Braelyn and Lochlan Park and Matt and Grace Hayes earned state championship medals on the same day. Assistant coach Erin Stevens works with both teams and more than a few of the squads’ players have attended school together for more than a decade. Bebeau and girls head coach Kylie Young are each former Hurricanes players.

“I can’t stress enough how much joy is in my heart right now,” Bebeau said. “These are core memories that will never go away, ever.”

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Third-seeded Hartford reaped the rewards of playing a schedule loaded with Division I opponents to beat the top-seeded Lakers, whose roster included 12 seniors. The Hurricanes, with five seniors, opened Tuesday’s scoring on a Jaden Poirier goal from close range in the second minute. Logan Caffery assisted.

Colchester (16-6-1) answered less than a minute later but took five of the game’s seven penalties and paid for one of them midway through the second period. Hartford’s Cavan Benjamin notched the eventual winner with a power-play slap shot from the right point and past screened Lakers goaltender Kieran Phillips. Mock and Park earned assists.

Colchester pulled Phillips for an extra skater and Mock scored an empty-net goal with 11 seconds remaining. Hayes was awarded an assist.

Goaltender Nunu Mayer, Hartford’s first freshman starter at his position since Jamie Steinmetz in 1984, made 21 saves, as did Phillips. The Hurricanes captured their sixth state title since appearing in the first-ever Division II championship game, an 8-0 loss to Winooski in 1974.

Hartford’s previous two teams may have featured more skill, but this season’s group was more cohesive and with less drama behind the scenes. The Hurricanes backchecked, won faceoffs, blocked shots and limited turnovers.

“It’s the little things that win hockey games,” Bebeau said. “It’s not necessarily the flashiest or faster players. We worked a lot more on mind set this season and the kinds of kids we have are the type who win games and who win in life.”

Hartford (13-7-3) executed a defensive plan that assigned a forward on each line to shadow the top Laker on the ice.

“It turned the game into a four (on) four,” Bebeau said. “It really helped our defenseman to not have to cover those high scorers.”

Lochlan Park, a three-year member of the hockey team, said the past two ugly endings drove the current squad.

“That’s been on our mind for a long, long time,” he said. “This feels amazing. Most of the guys on this team won a state title for lacrosse last spring, but hockey’s a whole different thing because we’ve wanted it for so long.”

Said Bebeau: “I’m going to sit back and embrace this moment. I’m a 54-year old man who gets to share this experience with young people. I have the best job in the world.”

Notes: Hayes missed the semifinals with a concussion and was cleared to play only Tuesday morning, Bebeau said. Also a standout baseball pitcher, Hayes said he injured his arm at a college showcase around the start of the school year and will soon undergo ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, commonly known as Tommy John surgery. Hayes delayed the surgery so he could play his final high school hockey season ... Nunu’s mother held aloft a sign with a picture of him, his name and number and the words “agile” and “determined” … Bebeau donned the same gray, plaid trousers he wore at Gutterson two years ago. “I feel vindicated for my pants,” the coach qupppied. … Hartford won only twice in 11 games from Jan. 13 to Feb. 20… A long line of automobile headlights followed the team bus home on Interstate 89 after the game, a prelude to the traditional escort in town by fire trucks and police cars, their sirens blaring.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.