Burrillville High senior co-captains Chad Stone (left) and Kyle Wilkinson will lead the Broncos into action in this weekâ€™s Burrillville Winter Classic at Levy Arena. Wilkinson had 46 saves in last winterâ€™s championship game against Lincoln High to help the Broncos win the title and earn tournament MVP honors.
BURRILLVILLE â€” The brainchild of Burrillville High head coach Steve Daigle and Levy Rink manager Chris Lacey, the will resume for the second consecutive season on Dec. 30, but Daigle calls it new and improved.
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â€śLast year, we had Lincoln, Cumberland, Barrington and us, but now we've gone to a six-team tournament with the addition of North Smithfield and Medfield, Mass.,â€ť he stated. â€śWe wanted to add another Rhode Island team, and Medfield is a natural because the head coach is Toby Carlow, who graduated from Burrillville in 1995.
â€śWhen I called him to ask if he'd come down and take part, he was all for it,â€ť he added. â€śToby actually went to the 'To Be a Bruin' open tryouts a few years back, and he made it all the way to the final round, so what they offer will be fun to watch.
â€śI had wanted it to make it bigger, get more teams involved from out of state, but that's hard because they have commitments to their own schedules. We played them the last two years in non-league games just because of the relationship Toby and I have. We also invited Medway, but that coach said he couldn't make it.â€ť
â€śNorth Smithfield mentor Paul Nadeau had called me a couple of months ago and wanted to know if it was possible for me to get (the Northmen) into it, and â€“ when I discovered Medway couldn't take part â€“ I gave the first choice to Paul. We're delighted to have them in the tournament; now it's one for all of our schools in the northwest corner of the state, with the exception of Barrington.â€ť
The action will begin on Monday with Cumberland facing Barrington at 5:30 p.m., while Lincoln will battle Medfield at 7 p.m. and the host Broncos facing North Smithfield at 8:30 p.m.
The following afternoon, beginning at 12:30, the two consolations tilts will be contested, while the championship game is slated for 3:30.
â€śBecause of the six-team format, and to make it fair to everyone, the two (squads) with the greatest goal differential in their 'semifinals' with qualify for the championship,â€ť Daigle noted. â€śThe team who wins by the most goals will be the first seed, and the one who places second (in that category) will be the road team.â€ť
The two consolation tilts will be decided based on who hasn't previously played another team.
The idea of conducting such an event came to Daigle and Lacey after they hosted an invitational tournament commemorating the 75th anniversary of Burrillville ice hockey in January 2011. It consisted of the four Rhode Island schools with the lengthiest history in Interscholastic League annals, among them the Broncos, Cranston East, La Salle and East Providence.
Burrillville lost to La Salle in that title tilt.
During the inaugural Winter Classic last December (also sponsored by Friends of Burrillville Hockey Boosters Club), the Broncos snatched a 4-3 shootout triumph over the Clippers in a thriller to garner the crown.
â€śThat was a physical, exciting game,â€ť Daigle recalled. â€śIn fact, we ended up beating Lincoln, 5-4, in the semifinals, and Cumberland defeated Barrington in another close one â€¦ Tournaments like this always seem to create a lot of exciting hockey, especially in the finals.
â€śThis year, it should be interesting, and all you have to do is look at the records,â€ť he continued. â€śLincoln is undefeated, and it will face Medfield, which also hasn't lost in Division II in Mass. after making the leap up this season. Cumberland is undefeated, too, while Barrington is 1-1-1. We're 1-2-1 so far, but we have a win over La Salle under our belts, and North Smithfield has the same record we do.
â€śThis should be a lot of fun for all of the teams involved.â€ť