**Each week, the County Courier sports staff will answer one “Question of the Week” in regards to the high school sports scene. We decided to wait a couple of days for all the local teams to finish out their season. Keep checking back each Thursday to see what question we are answering and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the County Courier on Thursdays**

What are some of your favorite storylines from this past winter season? 


We waited a couple extra days to do this question and I’m sure glad we did!

Milton Wins Unforgettable Title: I texted my wife after the second period of Friday’s Division II boys’ hockey title game to let her know that it would be an early night for me – short story recognizing a fine Milton runner-up campaign and a few photos and I’d be done with the winter season. It wasn’t just that Milton was down 3-0 after two periods – three goals is far from insurmountable in hockey – it was the fact that the Yellow Jackets were being absolutely dominated by an undefeated No. 1 seed. I’ve rushed to some bad predictions before, but this wasn’t one of them; through 30 minutes there was zero sign that Milton could win that game. Hopefully you’ve read the rest by now: three goals in the third period and one more in overtime snapped a 40-year title drought for Milton in one of the best games I’ve seen in 17 years of covering high school sports. Milton is on top of the hockey world for the first time since the early days of the Reagan administration and coach Perry goes out on the highest note possible.

Comet Hockey Back On Top In A Big Way: Both BFA-St. Albans hockey programs are just so perfectly run that it’s no wonder they’re always in the title hunt. The boys fell barely short in coach Ducolon’s final season but they’ll undoubtedly be hoisting a trophy again soon under the leadership of new coach Ben Roberts. For the Comets, they answered the program’s first-ever quarterfinal exit with a first-ever perfect season and another championship. All-time great seasons from Jodie Gratton (who matched BFA’s single-season point record) and Sophie Zemianek led the way as the Comets went 22-0 and won a championship thriller over Spaulding. The Comets will return plenty of firepower next season, including Gratton, and will be favorites to once again win it all.

MVU Girls Are Winners Again: I had to double and triple check to make sure I wasn’t missing something when I started researching as the Missisquoi girls’ basketball team jumped out to a winning record. There wasn’t an error, MVU really hadn’t had a winning season or home playoff game since 1991! Since that time, the Thunderbirds have had a 1,000+ point scorer and been coached by the greatest Vermont basketball player of all time but never could get above .500. That all changed this season as Jen Gagne’s girls finished the regular season 10-9 and earned the No. 8 seed and a home playoff game. They lost that playoff game by four points, but who cares? I was stunned to read some comments on my stories and hear from fans that there were disagreements with Gagne’s coaching style or player usage and it goes to show why coaching a varsity sport can be so challenging. MVU went 31 years without winning half its games and Gagne got them to accomplish that this year while her players seemed to be having a great time, that’s the one and only headline here. The County Courier doesn’t do its own postseason awards but if we did, coach of the year and team of the year would land in Swanton.

Bobwhite Basketball, A Metro Power?: I’ve been griping for years that BFA-St. Albans needed to return its boys’ basketball team to the Metro League and quit beating up on the Lake League which amounted essentially to giving up on the playoffs. As happy as I was to see the move, I fully expected a couple down years as the Bobwhites got acclimated to the new league under new coach Tristan Menard. BFA needed no grace period and jumped to a winning record with a team-first approach which made the lack of a 20ppg. scorer irrelevant. The Bobwhites were in just about every Metro game, played powerhouse Rice tough three times and came within a quarter of knocking off the Green Knights to get back to the Division I final-four for the first time since 1996. It didn’t happen this year but it’s going to soon, and the message has already been sent that no team will come to St. Albans for an easy win.


The biggest thing for me this season was the return to normalcy (mostly) for athletics. The 2021 shortened winter season definitely didn’t have the same feel to it when spectators weren’t allowed in the buildings to watch the games. Not hearing any cheering from fans was definitely weird being in the building covering the games last season and you definitely lose something when fans aren’t in the building. It was amazing being back in the hockey rinks and in the gyms seeing all the fans turning up to support their teams. Not even thinking about the championship games at UVM or Barre where obviously there is always a good crowd for those games, but the one game I keep going back to from this past season was the BFA-St. Albans vs. Essex boys hockey semifinal at Collins Perley. There was nowhere to stand if you didn’t get there early for the game with the crowd going three people deep all around the glass. Obviously, BFA and Essex is a huge hockey rivalry, but it lost a little something while missing fans last season. Sure, masks were required while going to these sporting events for a majority of the year, but that was a small price to pay to see everyone back in the stands supporting their local team.

I was 10-years-old growing up in St. Albans when girls hockey was first recognized in the state of Vermont and BFA-St. Albans got a team. I started writing for Josh Kaufmann as a junior in high school and the first team I started covering was the Comets hockey team. Just seeing all they have accomplished over the years has been great to watch. If someone told me before this season started that the Comets were going to do something this year that they haven’t done before in program history, my question would have been “What is there that this program hasn’t already accomplished?”. That’s why toward the end of the season when the Comets started getting to 17, 18 and 19 wins, I started getting curious because I would have thought there must have been a team in the past that had gone undefeated. Well, turns out I found out what they program hadn’t accomplished up until this season when they went a perfect 22-0 and finished with the programs 12th title. But what really has stuck with me since that championship game on Monday is I asked senior captain Sophie Zemianek how it felt to go undefeated this year, her response was the final win count didn’t matter because it was all about the experience with her teammates and adding another championship to the already storied program was what it was all about and anything else was a bonus. Maybe it’s because I never won a championship during my athletic career (I was part of a team that won the state spelling bee in my 6th grade year, and yes I still have the medal and certificate) but the fact that just moments after winning a championship game and goin undefeated during her senior season, the fact that Zemianek acknowledged it’s all about the team and program comradery really blew me away. I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because that is what coaches Luke Cioffi and Jeff Rouleau have instilled throughout this program and every version of Comet Hockey. They have made that a family, which is something that doesn’t happen through every program, but has made this such a special program. As a football coach myself, coach Cioffi and coach Rouleau would be two examples of the kind of coach I would want to be if I were to take a program over not only for the success they have on the ice, but the comradery they have instilled in their players which makes everything even more special than just what’s in the win column.

Another team that was personally fun for me to cover was the BFA-St. Albans boys basketball team. A lot of the players on the team this season were players that played for the St. Albans Steelers football team when I was a 5th-6th grade coach with that program, so coached quite a few of them. It was fun to see them all succeeding in other sports and seeing them go from 6th graders to high schoolers was fun to see the difference. It definitely didn’t hurt either like Ben said above, that this team was a lot of fun to watch seeing them go back to the Metro. Every game seemed like a dog fight which always made things exciting night in and night out, and the Bobwhites were right there in every game, including in the quarterfinal game against eventual Div. I champion Rice. The program is in good hands under coach Tristan Menard and the future certainly looks bright.

Speaking of consistent programs and the future looking bright, the Enosburg girls basketball team continues to be a powerhouse. A tough loss to eventual champion Mt. Abraham in the semifinals doesn’t take away from what the team accomplished this season. They are always toward the top of Division II and continued that trend this year with only three losses on the year. This is another program that is in good hands with their head coach with Gary Geddes providing consistency at the top of the program. Ever since they moved up from Div. III Div. II after the 2017 season, the Hornets have tallied at least 15 wins in every season (not counting last year’s shortened season due to Covid). That’s an impressive stretch for a program moving up a division. Usually when a program goes up a division like that, it might take them awhile to settle in, but the Hornets have jumped right in and made some noise. I expect them to continue that trend going into the 2022-23 season.