Collin Audy looks to chase down the puck in the third period of BFA’s game against Essex last Wednesday. (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)


By John Bonnette

ST. ALBANS – In a rematch of last year’s championship, Essex came in looking to knock off the undefeated Bobwhites and found a formula to bottle up the potent BFA offense while scoring some timely goals en route to a 3-1 upset of the defending Division I champions.

“Of course (beating BFA) is big to the guys that were a part of it last year,” Essex Coach Chris Line said. “But it is a new team and we have a lot of new faces and we really needed a confidence game and there is no better place to get it. “

“Anytime you come up here and get a win you take it. It is a good hard-fought game every time we play. It is never going to be easy, you always have to earn it.”

It was a defensive battle throughout the first period as the Hornets swarmed to the puck in the defensive zone and the teams combined for just eight shots on net with Essex having the best opportunity. 

Midway through the first period Trenton Sisters stripped the puck from a BFA defenseman just outside his own blue line before racing in alone on Bobwhite netminder Michel Telfer. But Telfer (21 saves) was up to the task, making a nice blocker save to keep the game scoreless.

“We have been working on it a lot,” Line said of his team’s defense.  “They typically try to get shots from anywhere and a lot of times they come from high and then they get guys crashing and they typically shoot from anywhere on the ice. So we really worked on being stick-on-stick and stay in the shot lane and frustrate.

“I knew if we could get a lead, it would be more difficult for them. They are really hard to play against when they have a lead but I think they sometimes get a little frustrated when they are down. So, we tried to keep it simple and just execute and bear down.”

BFA-St. Albans goalie Michel Telfer watches a puck off his stick late in the third period of Wednesday’s loss to Essex (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)

The defensive battle would go away early in the second as the teams combined to score three times in less than three minutes early in the period.

The Hornets broke the ice first when Andrew Forcier stripped a Bobwhite defenseman of the puck deep in the BFA zone and then hit Matthew Cincotta at the top of the circle. Cincotta quickly snapped a shot under the crossbar to give Essex a 1-0 lead with 12:44 left in the second.

The Bobwhites answered right back on the power play just over two minutes later as Cam Johnson found Aiden Savoy just inside the Essex zone. Savoy skated across the blue line before sliding a pass to Matt Merrill as he came off the BFA bench. Merrill circled to the low faceoff dot before beating Essex goaltender Ian Boutin (20 saves) with a low backhander to knot the score at 1-1 with 10:17 left in the second period.

“It was a great shot,” BFA Coach Toby Ducolon said. “A backhand is a tough shot to take and it is a tough shot to read for a goaltender and he put something on it and it was a good effort.”

“We would have loved to get more but that is a good goaltender and we have to get some ugly goals against him and we didn’t.”

The deadlock would last just 26 seconds as Telfer made the initial save off Hunter Driver’s shot from the point, but the puck trickled to his left where Benjamin Peake was waiting to tap it in to put Essex back in the lead, 2-1.

“When we scored, I thought our response to our first goal wasn’t as great as I would have liked it,” Line said. “I thought we got too high on ourselves and a little too confident and then they banged one in on the powerplay.”

“But our response to their goal was great. I thought we really kept focused and were actually more determined after that and we got better within our systems and allowed that to play out.”

The Hornets would make it 3-1 with 1:31 left in the period as they controlled the puck in the BFA zone before Nicholas Bradley’s low shot from the right point found its way through a crowd and into the back of the Bobwhite net to make it 3-1.

“It is huge going into a third period with a two-goal lead. It means they are going to have to do stuff that they are not familiar or comfortable doing so we just encouraged our guys to make them go 200 feet,” Line said. “Play simple and get pucks behind the net, force them to try stuff they don’t typically do.”

The Bobwhites (9-1) could not solve the Hornet defense in the third as Essex (6-3) shut the door to hand the BFA its first loss of the season. 

“They have a good hockey team no doubt about that,” Ducolon said. “We were very happy with the way we played. I think defensively we played pretty darn well. We have some forwards who have not got a lot of ice time this winter and they played very well tonight. Then we had some younger guys that played maybe at a slower pace and tonight they picked it up a notch.”

BFA travels to South Burlington on Saturday in what Ducolon called another big test for his team.

“I thought we did a pretty good job, Essex is a good hockey team and we were happy with that effort,” Ducolon said. “Results maybe, maybe not, but effort-wise we were very happy.”

“We need battles if we are going to win anything at the end of the season. We have not had but maybe one (battle all season) and we talked about it Monday and Tuesday and had our two best days of practice. So even though the scoreboard or results (didn’t show it), that is a good game for us and a good test for us and a good measuring stick for us.”