CUMBERLAND — The last time the Burrillville boys lacrosse team won the Division III title Ryan Boutiette was on the field – as the team's scorekeeper.
Boutiette, who was at the 2016 title game because his older brother Austin was a big part of the Broncos' title team, played a much bigger role in the No. 4 Broncos Division III championship game clash with No. 2 Pilgrim at Tucker Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Burrillville senior who spends his winters scoring goals for the state's premier public-school hockey team, was absolutely brilliant in keeping the Patriots from scoring. Boutiette saved 22 shots – including a shot in the final 20 seconds – while Aidan Baynes scored a hat trick and Jaeden Gibb added a goal and three assists in a thrilling 8-7 championship victory.
“The last save felt so good,” said Boutiette, who will play lacrosse next season at St. Joseph's College of Maine. “That last save reassured me that we had this game in the bag. I knew back when I was at the championship game my brother played in I wanted to be part of a team that won one of these. Ever since then I worked to get to this point.”
“Ryan is the biggest reason we won this game by a country mile,” Burrillville coach Eric Tupper said. “I've known Ryan since he was 5-year-old who played up with my younger boys. At the end of the game I wanted them to take a shot because I knew if he saved it, the game was going to be over because of how good he is with his stick. He was just phenomenal and just such a great kid.
“I tell the kids all the time that this is the best season I've ever had in any sport I've ever coached. Just for what they overcame with COVID and all of the other obstacles. They played eight games in 15 days to get to this point.”
Burrillville (7-2 Division III) went on a little revenge tour to win its second title in six years because they reversed regular-season losses to No. 1 Westerly in the semifinals and the Patriots to conclude one of the craziest seasons in RIIL history. Burrillville didn't play its first game until June 1 because a positive COVID test – which proved to be a false positive – shut the program down for over a week in May.
The Broncos originally had a five-game schedule in the first two weeks of June, but the RIIL informed them they needed to play six games to qualify for the playoffs, so a game was setup with the Bulldogs two weeks ago. Through it all, the Broncos bonded, improved and eventually sent nine graduating seniors and junior Ben Andersen out as champions.
“We crammed a lot of games into a short amount of time,” senior captain and defensive stalwart Jack Carrao said. “Practice and games – we had a lot in June. Coach keeps talking about the amount of games we played in a short period of time and it's just a ridiculous number. It takes a toll on us, but we persevered through and were rewarded for it.”
“The amount of time and effort we put into this season is amazing,” Gibb said. “We've had practice or a game basically every single day for the past three weeks. We played eight games in 15 days – that's insane. We're pushing our bodies to the limits, especially in this extreme heat. We knew with Ryan in net, we didn't have to worry at all.”
Pilgrim, which was playing in the first final in the program's seven-year history, only led for six minutes of the first quarter. The Patriots spent the rest of the game chasing the Broncos and they nearly caught them in the final five minutes when senior attacks Peter Kay and Richard Ryan scored goals 19 seconds apart to make it a one-goal game with just 4:53 to go.
The Broncos, who only scored twice in the second half, managed to drain the clock, but the Patriots still had one more chance when they called a timeout with just over 40 seconds left in the game. The Pats created a scoring chance, but the shot from the top of the restraining box was easily saved by Boutiette to end the contest.
Unlike the end of the game, the Broncos scored early and often to put the Patriots on their heels. Gibb found Baynes for a goal just 30 seconds into the contest. Pilgrim goalie Jacob Brennan was beaten again at the three-minute mark when Gibb fed senior John Libby for the first of his two goals.
“Those first two goals were crucial because we had to get some momentum early somehow and I was just lucky enough to be the one to do it,” Gibb said.
Sophomore Ethan Pezzullo bracketed a Ryan goal with scores to put the Patriots ahead for the only time in the afternoon. The Broncos answered with three goals at the end of the first period to grab a lead they would never relinquish. Baynes produced his second goal in as many quarters to extend the lead to 6-3, but the Pats responded with a pair of goals at the end of the quarter to cut the deficit to one.
Cam Dickey, thanks to a pass from Gibb, scored the only goal of the third quarter and Baynes scored his team's only goal of the fourth quarter to extend the lead out to three at 3:30.
Pilgrim had a response, but when the difference was just one goal, Boutiette proved why he was the best player on the field – and in the mind of his teammates – the best goalie in the state.
“There's no chance there's a better goalie in the state,” Gibb said. “He's worked his entire life for this moment. Everything I hear from him is dedicated to being a great lacrosse player. His entire free time is dedicated to being a better player. He has so much potential in him it's unreal. With Ryan in net, it's such a different game.”
“It's so great that we have Ryan because other teams don't have that luxury,” Corrao said. “We're lucky we have him.”
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello