Milton coach Bryant Perry hoists Milton’s first hockey championship since 1982 and waves over assistant coach Ryan Maskell at the conclusion of Friday’s overtime win over previously unbeaten Hartford (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)


By Ben Kaufmann
County Courier

BURLINGTON – Midway through the second period of Friday’s Division II boys’ hockey championship game, Milton’s Owen Severy took a crunching hit and immediately skated past his team’s bench and into the trainer’s room at UVM’s Gutterson Fieldhouse. At the time, it didn’t seem like the absence of Severy – the hat-trick hero from the Yellow Jackets’ semifinal win in which Milton rallied from a 3-0 deficit – would matter much.

No. 3 Milton was once again down 3-0 but this time it was against the undefeated, top-seeded Hartford Hurricanes. MHS had been outshot 18-8 in surrendering three first-period goals and, as Severy skated off, the Yellow Jackets were limping to the end of a five-minute power-play that had mustered just one shot on goal. For whatever signs there had been in the semifinal that a comeback was possible, none existed as the second period came to a close on Friday night.

A different Milton team emerged in the third period, one so energized that Hartford coach Todd Bebeau called a timeout less than 90 seconds in to try to prevent an unthinkable collapse. The timeout didn’t matter, Milton was on a mission. Cam Fougere ripped a wrist shot in on a power-play with 11:46 remaining then Caleb Barnier smashed in a one-timer from a Brandon Mitchell pass to make it a 3-2 game and send old Gutterson into a frenzy.

Oh, and Severy was back now. The sophomore scoring machine took a pass from Fougere and whipped in an equalizer with 4:33 remaining in regulation. In overtime, after the final two saves in a 29-save MVP-level performance from MHS goalie Teddy Munson, Severy struck one final time. Mitchell won a faceoff in front of the Hurricane goal, Cooper Goodrich took the puck behind the net and found Fougere, who came all the way across the face of the goal and fired. Severy, and most everyone else on the ice, touched the shot on its way in to give Milton a victory for the ages in the form of a 4-3 overtime win to capture its first title since 1982.

“I saw it hit four different skates before it bounced into the net, it was unbelievable,” said Goodrich.

“I was surprised it went in,” Severy said. “It went off like five guys, it was just crazy. But as soon as I saw it hit the net I just [celebrated].”

“I don’t know how it went in but I don’t care,” added Yellow Jacket coach Bryant Perry. “That’s what goal-scorers do, right? It was a little sketchy there during the middle of the game between the second, I didn’t know I was going to get him back. But determination, playing through some pain, we had a lot of guys banged up but I told them you can heal tomorrow, heal on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.”

If there’s one point worth recounting prior to Fourgere converting a Goodrich assist to bring Milton (17-6-1) to life offensively, it was Munson. With a lesser player in the Yellow Jacket goal, no amount of MHS determination could have brought them back from what surely would have been a seven or eight-goal deficit. Munson stopped three shots in the first 1:10 of play but couldn’t come up with a fourth as Hartford batted one in to take an early lead. He needed three saves in a row again just a few minutes later, the last one coming on an impossible deflection to keep the deficit at one. Barnier gave his goalie a hand, sliding to stop a Hartford (22-1) break with six minutes gone in the first, but a pair of power-play goals from Connor Tierney had Hartford up 3-0 after one behind a 18-8 shots-on-goal advantage. 

With just under seven minutes gone in a second period which was only going slightly better than the first for Milton, Munson stopped a breakaway, poked the return pass off the rebound, and dropped into a full split to make a glove save on a point-blank shot which would have ended that play with a fourth Hartford goal.

“How many goalies are going to make that save?” Perry said of the play. “From the beginning of the game, he was like ‘We got this, coach’. And we finally gave him some support in the third.”

Munson made another impressive save with Milton shorthanded late in the second, then Tierney slid to break up a beautiful pass from Milton’s Carter Milo to Braden Mathieu which could have put MHS on the board before the third. As it stood, Milton headed to the locker room with Severy injured and little going well against Division II’s top dog. What exactly does a coach say in the locker room at that point?

“In not so many words, crap or get off the pot, that was the message,” Perry said. “We’re down 3-0, we held them in the second and now it’s the time. We’ve got 15 minutes left and it’s up to you guys.”

“It’s believing in what just happened in the semis, right? If you can’t believe it in the finals then you shouldn’t be playing the game. That’s why you play to the whistle, especially when you get it close.”

Goodrich said some basic math reminded the Yellow Jackets that the game was far from out of reach.

“We talked about how they had three in the first period, so we knew you could get three in a period,” the senior co-captain said. “So we knew we had to get three and push it to overtime or maybe win it.”

For Fougere, another senior co-captain, being able to draw on a rally from 3-0 down just six days ago came in handy.

“We kind of had that feeling after the semifinal game when we were in the same situation. We were never down in the locker room, it was always just get one and see what happens. We got one, then we got two, got three, and then the rest is history.”

Looking back, there weren’t many Yellow Jackets who didn’t make a play to contribute to Friday’s title. Tyler Larocque was strong defensively and ripped a slap-shot six minutes into the second which seemed to remind Milton that it was permissible to try to score. Mitchell deflected that slap-shot just wide and made a pivotal stop from on the ice with 40 seconds left in regulation. Mathieu put a power-play shot off the side netting then nearly scored off the Milo pass later in the second. Goodrich put a shot off the post early in the third and Riley Zeno missed scoring on the rebound by inches – forcing Hartford to use its timeout early in the third up 3-0. Zeno nearly scored again after another Larocque shot was blocked with the Yellow Jackets down 3-1.

There was all that and plenty of other plays that didn’t seem noteworthy when Hartford was taking ring measurements in the first two periods, but what every Yellow Jacket will remember from Friday is flying over to celebrate with a crowd that appeared to contain everyone who has lived in Milton since its last hockey championship.

“I’m just on top of the world, it hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m just going to soak in the moment, it’s just unbelievable,” Fougere said. “This is everything. These people came out and supported us all year and for them to see us win it all for the first time in 40 years is just crazy.”

“It’s amazing support,” added Goodrich. “We had more people than I ever thought would be here and it was amazing. It helped us a lot.”

And then there was Perry; waving to the crowd, soaking up the moment, excitedly handing assistant coaches Ryan Maskell and Derek Mitchell the trophy – but not for too long.

“I just told my AD ‘You better order another one because this one’s coming home with me’,” Perry said, adding that after bringing Milton its first championship in four decades, his work here is done. “What a way to end. I think I’m hanging it up for now, we’ll see what happens when my kids get older.”

Along with Perry, Milton will say goodbye to seniors Fougere, Goodrich, Zeno, Zorion Seaman, Milo, Mitchell, and Munson. Severy, Larocque, Barnier, Mathieu, and the rest will be back to try to bring Milton a fourth program championship and they’ll try to do it in 39 years or less.