The Rogers-Middletown-Tiverton Co-op team came from behind to beat Portsmouth 3-1 for the Division II state hockey title at Schneider Arena on Saturday afternoon. Matt O’Hagen, Keaton …
The Rogers-Middletown-Tiverton Co-op team came from behind to beat Portsmouth 3-1 for the Division II state hockey title at Schneider Arena on Saturday afternoon. Matt O’Hagen, Keaton O’Shea and Johnny Lopes each scored for the Hurricanes in the nail-biter. The arena exploded with cheers at the final buzzer. The Hurricanes whipped off their helmets and gloves and flung them into the air as they toppled junior goaltender Max Braun who played brilliantly, making 22 saves for the Hurricanes in the victory.
“When it comes to turning away shots, It’s all a mental game,” said Braun. “Short angle shots, I knew I had those on lock. Once you get into a groove, it’s pretty simple.”
“Max is an absolute rock wall for us. The Great Wall of Braun,” said Hurricanes head coach Johnny Sheil. “He’s All-State in my opinion. He’s been incredible.”
“They were flying, absolutely flying,” said Patriots head coach Greg Cunningham. “I couldn’t have asked for anymore. We had plenty of chances and plenty of opportunities. We just couldn’t bury it. Their goalie was really, really, really good.”
RMT finished their championship season with a record of 17-2-2, while Portsmouth finished with a record of 16-3-1.
Ironically, Portsmouth’s lone goal came from a player who lives in Tiverton, Shane Temple, who is enrolled in one of the career and technical education programs at PHS.
“There’s no words to describe this,” said Lopes after the game. “I’ve been waiting three long years for this. I can’t even explain, I am so excited for the team and our coaches who put in all of the hard work all year for us.”
“We are very senior heavy and I’m proud of our guys,” said Coach Sheil. “It was a great game. Portsmouth is a fantastic team. Our hats off to them.”
RMT has made the playoffs five straight years with Coach Sheil as their head coach. They were finally able to get over the hump this season.
“Tiverton we just brought in this year, and I’m so happy for those guys,” he said. “We were happy to have them. We try to build a culture and then the wins will follow. Tiverton we owe a lot of credit to, for helping to build that culture.”
Temple gives Portsmouth a 1-0 lead
Temple gave the Patriots at 1-0 lead with 4:27 left in a tense first period. The sophomore took a pass from line mate Joey Levreault and put a nifty shot by Braun sending Patriots fans into jubilation. Patriots defender Steve Madden also assisted on the goal.
Penalty hurts Patriots
But the lead was short lived. The Patriots were hurt by their third penalty of the game. With 10:21 to play in the second period, forward Ben West was escorted to the penalty box by the referees after cross checking a Hurricanes player in front of the RMT goal. Seven seconds later, the Hurricanes working on a power play, set up forward Matt O’Hagan in the slot. The junior walked in and blasted the puck by Patriots goaltender Stephen Dutra (26 saves) into the top left corner of the net to knot the score 1-1. Christian Berluti and Noah Leys assisted on the play.
“Stephen has made some pretty awesome saves all season,” said Coach Cunningham. “He’s been a rock all year…I am so disappointed for these kids. They have worked so hard. Even in the midst of all of the craziness that was going on, we had leadership on the team that stood up and worked hard.”
The two teams battled into the third period. Temple had several good opportunities to break the tie. On one chance, he broke in alone on Braun and tried to lift the puck into the right corner of the net, but Braun made a spectacular save with his pad to keep the score tied.
O’Shea gives Hurricanes a 2-1 lead
Hurricanes center Keaton O’Shea finally broke the tie with 6:01 left in the third period. O’Shea skated up ice after the Hurricanes gained possession in the defensive zone. The senior collected the puck as it bounded off the boards on the right side of the neutral zone and raced up the right side, past Patriots defenseman Dan Biello. O’Shea cut left, just before the goal mouth and stuffed the puck between Dutra’s legs and it trickled into the back of the net. O’Shea thrust his fist and Hurricane’s fans erupted in cheers as they celebrated a 2-1 lead.
“I knew I had it in the tank,” he said of the goal. “Go right around him and put it through the goalie’s legs. It’s surreal. You dream of that, playing your rivals in the finals with the third period tied and scoring that goal.”
Portsmouth head coach Greg Cunningham called a time out and both teams skated to their benches for a strategy session. The Patriots pressed to tie the game and pulled Dutra for an extra player with under two minutes to play. Chaos ensued in the RMT defensive zone until Hurricanes senior Johnny Lopes finally iced the game with a shot from the neutral zone into the Patriots empty net to give RMT a 3-1 lead with 24 seconds to play.
“I had a lot going through my mind there,” said Lopes. “I was hoping that I did not miss the net. I would have never lived that one down.”
“We have a team motto,” said Braun. “How far are you willing to go to be the best. Every practice we were willing to go the extra mile. I think that our hard work and effort is what brought us together as a team.”
After the buzzer sounded, the Hurricanes jumped over their boards, threw their gear into the air and smothered Braun in celebration in front of their fans. The Hurricanes followed O’Shea as he skated around the rink with the championship plaque. “I love these guys…They mean more than the world to me,” said O’Shea.