By Ray O’Hara
The 2012 League Champion, CJ’s PENALTY BOX, faced-off against THE CRUSHERS in the 2013 Waterville Valley Broomball Championship game on Thursday, March 7, 2013. CJ’s came into the final game with the confidence that they would continue their unbeaten season and roll to their second consecutive broomball title. CJ’s, a Lincoln, NH team, ended the regular season with a record of 9-0-1, most goals scored and fewest goals against. CJ’s won the season series against the Crushers 2-1 and 4-1.
The Crusher’s entered the Waterville Valley Broomball league in 2006 and endured six years of frustration. They had never had a winning season and had failed to make the playoffs. Team captain, Casey Surette, retained his best players and added some new talent leading his team to their best season (8-2-0) and a 2nd place finish. The Crusher’s shut out XXX (the 2nd highest goal scoring team in the league) in the semi-finals to get this shot at the league championship. One of the significant additions to this Crusher’s team was goalie Leah Bridgham. She came into this league championship with six shutouts including a 3-0 win in the semi-finals.
From the opening face-off, it was evident that this would be a high-tempo matchup. It had all the makings of a true crowd pleaser – fast-breaking offenses, aggressive fore-checking defenses and the two best goal-tenders in the league: CJ’s Dana Gagnon (0.83 GA ave) and Leah Brighham (1.00 GA ave.) – regular season stats.
In baseball, it is said that good pitching stops good hitting. This night, defense was the key to the Crusher’s upset win. The lone goal was scored at the 8:50 mark of the first period. A change of possession gave the Crusher’s the ball outside the face off circle near center ice. Bruce McKay initiated play with a blistering slap shot that went clear to the net past goalie Dana Gagnon giving the Crushers that all-important first score. From that point on the Crusher’s team battled to contain the league’s most potent offense. CJ’s Penalty Box had a number of scoring opportunities in the 2nd period, but, Leah Bridgham and the Crushers’ defense held firm.
The pressure began to show in the 3rd period as the tempo of play went up a few more notches! CJ’s frustration began to show as time was beginning to be a factor. The Crusher’s continued to roll the puck back down ice and followed the ball down into the corners, fighting for possession against the boards as the game time wound down to under three minutes. CJ’s Goalie Dana Gagnon left the net late in the game as CJ’s desperately tried to even the score. The adrenaline level of the Crushers was high enough to sustain them as goaltender Leah Bridgham recorded her second straight playoff shutout leading the Crushers to their first ever Waterville Valley Coed Broomball League Championship!
The fifth place Mad River Tavern and sixth place Campton Mountain Yetis played a consolation game preceding the league championship game. Early in the first period, Alyssa Satas scored to give Mad River Tavern a 1-0 lead. Midway through the 2nd period broomball veteran, Mike Bluestein, scored for the Yetis to tie the game. The teams played inspired defense and offense for the balance of the period until MRT’s co-captain, Andy McDonald, scored at the 1:12 mark taking a one-goal lead into the final period. The Yetis pressed for the tying goal only to give up a three on one break and a score by Sheila Miller at 12:20. Late in the period, with the Yetis desperate for a goal, Mad River Tavern’s Jeff Furlone put the game away with MRT’s 4th goal with three minutes to play.
Final: Mad River Tavern 4, Campton Mountain Yetis 1.
The Crushers’ name will be added to the “Jim Shea Capitol Cup” as the 2013 Waterville Valley Coed Broomball League Champions with a combined regular season and playoff record of 10-2- 0.
The broomball banquet and awards ceremony was held at Legend’s 1291 Sports Bar in Waterville Valley’s Town Square. AMOSKEAG BEVERAGES, Concord, NH, is the sponsor for the Waterville Valley Coed Broomball League and funds the costs of the trophies and the food at this annual event. The Broomball League Administration wishes to thank Mr. Tim Quinn for his company’s continued support of the league’s 34 years of competitive broomball play, and to the Waterville Valley Ice Arena, Mgr. Brendan Connolly and staff, for their excellent support this season.