Boys Hockey: Avon Tourney Champs
Posted 12/19/2012 10:12AM

Boys Hockey: Avon Tourney Champs!

The Boys Hockey team headed to Avon Old Farms over the weekend to compete in 30th Annual Avon Christmas Classic. Berkshire has participated in this event since its inception but has never finished better than 2nd, something they accomplished twice in the late 90's. After four hard-fought games over the course of two and half days, the 2012-2013 Berkshire Boys Varsity Hockey team ended that streak with a double-overtime win over the Kent School on Saturday to hoist the championship trophy for the first time in school history.

The Bears played in the tournament's opening game against the host team Avon. The Bears finished their final semester exams early that morning, boarded the buses and arrived determined to break a recent trend of dropping one of the first two games of the weekend. The preliminary games of the tournament are played with a unique format of two twenty-five halves instead of the traditional three periods, and both teams began the first half of this contest well. Avon managed to have some longer stretches of possession in the Bears' end, but Berkshire did a nice job of defending as a team and managed to limit the dangerous chances. Half-way through the opening stanza, the Bears got on the board when Tipper Higgins finished a tremendous passing play from linemates Charlie Corcoran and Craig Puffer to give the visiting side a 1-0 lead. Having seized the momentum, the Bears got another one not longer after the first when Jeff Thompson drove hard to the net and made a great play to give the Bears' a 2-0 lead at the half. The home Avon side re-grouped at half-time and got one back when they crashed the net and slid one in to bring them within one goal. The Bears showed great determination and responded quickly when Craig Puffer found sophomore Jimmy McKee on the point; McKee let a quick wrist shot go that beat the Avon keeper for the first of his varsity career and what would prove to be the eventual game winner. Avon managed to get one more back with a few minutes to play, leading up to a dramatic finish where a unique series of calls led to Berkshire earning a power-play with under a minute to go, but also having to stop a penalty shot. Tim Ernst was more than up to the task of the penalty shot, and that save with 47 seconds left would seal the victory.

In the second game the Bears traveled to Trinity College to face a young, skilled squad from Tabor Academy. George Blinick got to the start in goal for the Bears and did an excellent job of backstopping the team after a poor start by the skaters in front of him left the team down by a goal early. The Bears responded well and carried the play for most of the game, earning a 4-2 victory with goals from Matt Renzi, Nate Summers, and two from Craig Puffer. It was a solid victory that left little time for celebration as the Bears headed back to Avon to take on Trinity-Pawling later that evening.

Tim Ernst was back in goal for the Bears and was excellent, shutting out a very good side from Trinity-Pawling. In what was the third contest in little more than 24 hours the Bears looked understandably tired and struggled to mount an offensive. With the score tied at zero half way through the second half, senior Quinn Pompi made a great rush up from his defensive position and scored to give the Bears a 1-0 lead which they would hold to earn a place in the finals against Kent.

The final game would be played in the traditional three-period format and all those in attendance were treated to a well played game by both sides, and a goaltending effort by Tim Ernst that would earn him the MVP and will be talked about for ages by all those who witnessed it. The  Bears got an early lead when Bryan Gerstenfeld took a shot from the point which led to a large rebound that Nate Summers was able to finish, giving Berkshire a 1-0 lead that would last to the end of the period. In the second period, Kent began to exert themselves physically and managed to put Berkshire on their heels and maintain long stretches in the Bear's defensive zone. While Kent managed to get two goals in the period, Tim Ernst was outstanding in limiting the damage done and giving his team a chance heading into the third period down by a goal. The Bears found some energy in the locker room and came out with a renewed purpose, and the confidence in their goaltender allowed them to push forward to seek the equalizer. With just over ten minutes to play in the final period, senior Tyler Behring took a feed from his defensive partner Quinn Pompi and fired a shot into the top corner for the first of his varsity career and the game-tying goal. Both teams managed some chances down the stretch but both goalies were equal to the task and the game was sent into overtime.

Because the games in tournament are played not only for placement within that event but also factor into the standings for the New England tournament, the overtime format was one five-minute period, in line with NEPSIHA rules. If the game was still tied after that five, the result would be counted as a tie for both teams' records, but the contest would continue with 18-minute sudden death overtime periods until a winner was determined. Through the first five minutes, both teams looked a bit tentative and few quality chances were created; the teams took another break for an ice-cut and came back out for an 18 minute double-overtime. While the players on both teams were giving it their all, the final period belonged to Tim Ernst who put on a goaltending display that was nothing short of miraculous at times. Ernst managed to stymie several well executed odd man rushes by Kent, made a phenomenal save on a Kent player who was left wide-open in the slot on the power-play and then brought the crowd, both team benches, and all coaches in attendance to their feet with a glove save from his stomach with under two-minutes to play that looked impossible.

Bolstered by Ernst, the Bears managed a rush with under a minute to play in the period that resulted in a rebound landing on the stick on Nick O'Connor. O'Connor, showing great poise, made a shifty little move to create space and slid it home for the game and championship winner. It was a historic win for the Bears, and Tim Ernst collected the trophy for his team as well as tournament MVP honors. The Bears head into the holiday break with a record of 6-2-1 and will face eastern opponents in Nobles and St. Seb's just before New Year's.