PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- You’re never too young to be a little nostalgic.
After helping the Berkshire Bruins Bantam team earn a 4-0 win in the championship game of the 49th annual Gib Kittredge Tournament on Sunday, Jackson Molleur put the victory into perspective.
“It’s great,” he said. “I mean, this is my last year, my last Kittredge Tournament. I’ve played here since I was a mite. So it means a lot win the last one for us.
“I think we were sluggish at the beginning, but once we got going, I think we’ve been good all weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be able to carry it into our future tournaments.”
Three Berkshire Bruins teams got to hoist a championship banner on Sunday at the Boys and Girls Club.
In addition to Molleur and the Bantams, the host team picked up wins in the Squirt and Pee Wee Divisions. A fourth Bruins squad also reached the finals, in the Squirt B/C bracket, making for a successful weekend all the way around in the three-day winter classic.
Pee Wee Division
The last game of the tournament was one of its most exciting, as Everett Bayliss notched a hat trick and Hunter Shepardson made some big stops late to help the Bruins hold on for a 4-2 win over Salisbury, Conn.
After a scoreless first period, Bayliss broke through for a power play goal in the first minute of the second.
Later in the period, he carried the puck in from the neutral zone on a semi-breakaway and lit the lamp to give his team a 2-0 lead. It was the second of three transition goals for Bayliss.
“I was nervous because if I miss, I’d feel bad for myself because I missed and let down the team if we lost,” Bayliss said. “But it feels really good to score.”
Salisbury got one back late in the second, but with just two seconds left on the clock, Max Easton put back the rebound of an Alexander Jerebtsov shot to give Berkshire a two-goal cushion going to the third.
It stayed that way until Salisbury caught fire midway through the third.
First, Liam Colley converted a one-on-none breakaway chance, slipping a shot past Shepardson to get Salisbury within one with 8 minutes, 1 second to play.
Thirty seconds later, Salisbury had another one-on-none chance, but this time, Shepardson made the save. Less than a minute later, a Salisbury forward hit the post.
Shepardson made eight of his 13 saves in the third period with the game on the line.
“Hunter Shepardson is just an unbelievable goalie,” Berkshire coach John Hammill said. “He’s been our anchor all year. He allows us to kind of get away with some mistakes. He’s that good. Game in and game out, he brings his best game, so it’s really comforting to have him back there.
“Tonight, you saw that. And Friday night -- we wouldn’t even be in this game without his play on Friday night. So it’s been like that the whole weekend.”
Bayliss tacked on some insurance late, taking the puck out of his defensive zone and all the way to other end to make it a 4-2 final.
“It was really exciting,” Bayliss said of his team’s postgame celebration. “I loved it because you don’t have many championships where you win tournaments.”
It ended up a 4-0 decision over Bethlehem, N.Y., but late in the first period, it was anyone’s game.
Roshan Warriar scored from the slot with assists from Dominic Velasco and Molleur with 30 seconds left in the first to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
They doubled that margin 22 seconds into the second period when Liam Noyes put back the rebound of Austin Buda’s shot to make it 2-0.
“I just feel like we underestimated them a little bit,” Molleur said. “The first game we played them, we beat them 5-1. But they beat Clifton Park [N.Y], 5-1, earlier in the day, so they came out fired up.
“Once we started realizing they were here to play, we were good.”
Holden Kotelnicki and Cameron Broderick were solid in goal for the Bruins, combining to stop 18 shots
Offensively, Warriar and Buda each had a goal and an assist.
Warriar set up Buda for a short-handed tally in the 26th minute to make it 3-0 after three periods.
In the third, Raymond Lynch fired a rocket from the right-wing faceoff dot for a power play goal, getting help from Collin Booth and Molleur.
Squirt A Division
The Berkshire Bruins Squirt Gold team has had bigger days offensively. But it’s a safe bet it has not had many better days than a 2-0 title game win in front of its home fans.
Ethan Bishop had a goal and an assist, and Connor McLeod made 12 saves lead the B’s to victory over the squirt all-stars from Eastern Connecticut Hockey Organization.
Bishop scored the first one with a tough angle shot from the right wing in the sixth minute.
“In the last two games, we put almost 14 or 15 goals on the board, and to get the first one, to get the momentum going, was big,” Berkshire coach Josh Hillman said. “[ECHO] played a much better hockey game this evening than they did on Saturday, for sure. It was physical, a lot of bumping.
“But to get the first goal was huge.”
The Bruins’ special teams killed off six ECHO penalty chances to preserve the shutout.
“It’s that learning curve for 10-/11-year-olds, they’re just figuring out how to use their bodies and protect the puck,” Hillman said. “We just have some really strong skaters across the board. Our whole team is strong skaters.
“It’s part of what the Berkshire Bruins program does is create strong skaters. We were able to get on the puck early because of that, and the stronger skaters we are, the better off we’re going to be.”
The second Berkshire goal came early in the second, when Bishop and Christian Barry set up Jackson Sheehy.
That was more than enough offense for McLeod.
“Connor played phenomenal all weekend,” Hillman said. “I think he let up one goal over three games. That’s pretty solid. He’s getting better every day. And Coach Roberts working with him, it’s fun to watch.”
Squirt B/C Division
In the afternoon's first final, Bethlehem, N.Y., handed Berkshire a 5-1 defeat.
Special teams were key for the New Yorkers, who used a short-handed goal and a power play goal on their way to the title.
After falling behind late in the first period, the Bruins tied it when Gabe Locke converted an assist from Kydd Kearns.
Locke fired a shot from high on the right wing through the five hole in the first minute of the second period to tie it.
But Bethlehem answered a few minutes later when R. Kiyonaga scored one of his three goals on a rebound to make it 2-1.
The visitors added a 5-on-3 goal before the second period was out and scored twice in the third to secure the win.
Dmitri Huey stopped 18 shots in the 36-minute match for Berkshire.
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