WEST SPRINGFIELD – It was a happy day for one Westfield hockey player and his band of hard-nosed, blue collar skate mates.
Westfield senior forward Alex Beauchemin corralled a beautiful pass from Max Maggipinto while streaking up the ice on the wing, and completed a sensational breakaway flipping the puck into the net in overtime to lift the No. 2 Bombers to a thrilling 2-1 win over the top-seeded Longmeadow Lancers in the West Division 3 boys ice hockey finals Thursday night at the Olympia Ice Center.
The only thing Beauchemin, who celebrated his birthday Thursday, had left to do was blow out the candles on a cake likely waiting at home. He turned off the lights on Longmeadow.
“I saw Max coming up the ice, and I screamed for it,” Beauchemin said. “He hit me perfectly. I got lucky enough to put it top right. …It feels great.”
The Westfield fans sang “Happy Birthday” to Beauchemin, the Bombers raised the championship trophy to boisterous cheers, and members of the team held up three fingers symbolizing a three-peat.
Westfield (15-4-2), which lost to Longmeadow (17-4-1) twice during the regular season, swept the Lancers for the third straight year. The Bombers have now won 13 titles in 17 seasons, five of the last six, and 11 since 2002.
Together, the two teams have combined for 16 of the last 17 championships in Division 3.
“It’s the heart,” Beauchemin said. “I’ve never seen so much courage, so much strength in one team. Everyone comes together when it matters. … We all stick together, we all play together and we do our job.”
Westfield senior goalie Cam Parent worked hard in net, racking up 30 saves.
Parent was under fire early, holding up under pressure as Longmeadow unleashed a barrage of shots late in a first period power play. His teammates spotted him a one-goal lead early in the second period.
With 13:31 remaining on the second period clock, Ryan Moorhouse slipped the puck over to Spencer Cloutier, who jammed it into the net for a one-goal lead.
Longmeadow continued to back up the Westfield defense, especially with its front line, and it finally paid off for the Lancers midway through the second period.
Spencer Robbins plucked the puck from the left circle and wristed it through a small window in the defense into the right side of the net for Longmeadow with 7:44 left in the middle frame. The shot came immediately after a faceoff with Jack Barron wresting it away from Westfield.
“Those top two – everyone knows when they come out, they’re going to do something dangerous,” Beauchemin said. “Our game plan was just stop those two, get on the body, hit hard, skate fast, get the puck in and play our game.”
Westfield stuck with that mentality throughout the course of the contest, and it paid off.
Parent showed his goaltending prowess again late in the period, breaking up a 2-on-1 effort after Robbins blew by the Westfield defense along the right boards, came around the net, and dished to Barron out in front of the net. The Bombers goalie blocked the point blank shot.
Parent thwarted another Barron shot attempt as the buzzer sounded on the second period. After a scoreless third period – with chances few and far between for both teams – the stage was set for the dramatic finish.
“Anything can happen in the playoffs,” Parent said. “We just had to stay confident and ready.”
Westfield wore down Longmeadow’s top two players, and the Bombers sprinted to the finish line with Beauchemin’s game-winner.
“We knew it was going to be dogfight,” said Westfield coach C.B. “Moose” Matthews, who credited his coaching staff with making the key adjustments as the game progressed. “It was a great win. I think one of the best I’ve had in 30 years. …At home, in front of the crowd, overtime goal – you can’t beat it. What a game.”