WEST HAVEN — Knowing it was the last game of his high school career, Bethel/Brookfield/Danbury’s Kyle Boller was not going to let an opportunity slip away.
Scoring twice and adding two assists, Boller led top-seeded BBD to a 4-1 victory over third-seeded Newtown/New Fairfield in the Southern Connecticut Conference/South West Conference Division III finals at the Edward L. Bennett Rink in West Haven Saturday afternoon.
“We just don’t quit,” Boller said. “We know how hard we have to work. Everyone is so supportive. Even the kids who do not play much are so supportive.”
BBD, which won its first 10 games of the season before dropping two straight, completed the season with a 12-2 record, including two straight to end the year. It was BBD’s second win over Newtown this season and first SCC/SWC title in three attempts for the Ice Cats.
“It starts with last year,” BBD coach Rusty Granacker said. “We were 3-14-3. We lost a lot of close games last year. We have a great group of seniors who returned. They did a great job. I am really proud of them. We had a great group of young talent come in. That helps. We have 12 guys who can step on the ice and play with anyone.”
Boller made his presence felt early in the contest as BBD struck first, less than three minutes into the game.
After Anthony Britton put the puck in front, Boller tapped a shot past Newtown goaltender Markus Paltauf just 2 minutes, 26 seconds into the game, with an assist also going to Kenneth Granacker.
The Nighthawks (5-4-2) controlled the middle portion of the opening period, but could not get a shot past BBD goaltender Louie Alfidi as Alfidi came up big by denying Carter Ballard in a scramble in front with 7:02 left.
Newtown finally got the equalizer and scored its first goal of the season against BBD in the final minute of the period.
James Celentano found himself alone in front of the net, and after Alfidi denied Celentano’s initial shot, Celentano banged in the rebound to even the game at one with 23.2 seconds to go in the period.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Newtown coach Paul Esposito said. “They are upset, but they had the opportunity to play. There are teams quarantined, teams who had to miss the playoffs. Not everyone got a chance to play in a championship game like we did today.”
Boller then took over the second period, scoring the go-ahead goal early and picking up an assist later in the period.
With the Ice Cats on the power play, Alex Nunez put a shot on goal, before Boller knocked in the rebound for a 2-1 lead 3:26 into the middle period.
Alfidi took over from there as he preserved the BBD lead with 13 saves in the middle period, including denying Celentano with a chest save in front five minutes in. Alfidi turned aside Philip Makris from the slot with a pad save with six minutes to go, and Camryn Gouveia from the side seconds later.
“It was a team effort,” Alfidi said. “It has been like that all year. It has not been one player over the other. We all work together. It has been next man up all year.”
BBD got some early insurance, scoring in the final seconds of the middle period off a hard-working play. A sliding Britton got just enough of a pass in front by Aidan Garvey to beat Paltauf for a 3-1 lead with 21.1 seconds left in the middle period. Boller also assisted on the goal.
The Ice Cats wrapped up the scoring with their third power play goal of the game in the third period as Britton scored off an assist from Boller with 4:22 remaining. Britton finished the contest with two goals and an assist.
“I can’t say how proud I am of these kids,” Granacker said.
Alfidi finished with 32 saves for BBD, while Paltauf had 27 saves for Newtown.
Player of the Game
Kyle Boller — BBD senior had four points, including two goals and two assists. Boller opened the scoring in each of the first two periods, giving BBD leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
“Looking back, losing in the regular season was not a bad thing. It would have been tough had we lost the first game in the playoffs. Our guys came out and competed every night.”
— BBD coach Rusty Granacker