PROVIDENCE – Though their two teams went a combined 8-24-3 in league play this season, Burrillville and Barrington put on a championship-caliber show Thursday night.
In a contest that went down to the wire, the Eagles got a third-period goal from Michael Lombardi and came up with a huge defensive stand in a frenzied final minute to win Game 1 of the Division I finals, 1-0, at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium. The Broncos will try to push the best-of-three series to a decisive third game when the two teams reconvene Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock.
While Lombardi’s score 3:53 into the final period proved to be the deciding factor, the drama only intensified until the clock struck triple-zero. Burrillville, seeded sixth, was presented the gift of a rare 6-on-3 advantage with 55.7 seconds remaining after No. 8 Barrington was whistled for two penalties that came roughly a minute apart.
The first Eagles’ infraction – hooking against Stephen Miller – allowed Burrillville coach Steve Daigle to pull goalie Kyle Wilkinson with 1:14 left. Then came a cross checking infraction against Barrington goalie Andrew Galbraith and with it a golden chance for Burrillville to get even.
Though the Broncos were able to get pressure on Galbraith, they also mixed in a few sloppy passes, one of which the Eagles easily cleared with 20 seconds left. Burrillville had one last gasp with senior Evan Lafond firing a shot just inside the blue line. Galbraith smothered the bid as time expired to cap off a shutout that featured 28 saves.
“I expected this to be a close game. Unfortunately it went their way this time,” said Daigle outside Burrillville’s dressing room. “(Galbraith) didn’t leave any rebounds for us. Their ‘D’ played good in front of the net and were clearing us out.”
Thursday marked the fourth meeting of the season between two members hailing from the Eccleston Division. Burrillville won all three regular-season encounters, two of which were by a single goal.
“A game like this, you expected a cheap goal,” Daigle said.
The lone score was the result of a breakdown in Burrillville’s zone that Lombardi and Barrington capitalized upon. A freshman, Lombardi fired a shot that eluded Wilkinson glove side.
The first period finished scoreless with the Eagles owning an 8-3 advantage in shots. They tried to rattle Wilkinson (30 saves) from the outside and down low, though the Broncos netminder was successful in thwarting every bid, including one that came with 31.2 seconds left when Barrington attempted to create traffic in front of him.
The middle 15 minutes was a different story. While the two finalists proved unable to put a dent in the scoreboard, each generated solid chances off its transition game. Barrington’s Brett Fay picked off a pass at center ice and broke in for what he and his teammates hoped would be a shorthanded tally, but Wilkinson stood tall with a save that came four minutes into the period.
Burrillville’s Tyler Kearney tried twice to beat Galbraith short side but the Barrington goalie proved up to the task. The second period ended with each side managing 13 shots.
“I think both teams were struggling with the bigger ice surface early on. Neither of us had played (at Meehan Auditorium) before,” Daigle said.
Asked if he’s good to have a day off before returning to action, Daigle answered in the affirmative. “We’ll probably have a light skate (Friday) and come back ready to play and see what happens.”