Brendan Lahue is a freshman who anchors the South Burlington High School boys hockey team’s third line, part of a group that typically does the dirty work and misses out on the glory.
That changed Saturday afternoon at Cairns Arena.
Pouncing on a rebound chance, Lahue knocked home the winning goal in the third overtime period of a Division I semifinal, lifting top-seeded South Burlington over No. 4 North Country, 3-2, in another playoff classic between the Metro squads.
Overcoming the standout goaltending of North Country’s Chris Bronson (57 saves), the Rebels rallied, reached down and grabbed a thrilling win on their home ice to advance to the program’s first D-I final in 16 years.
“We put the puck on net for the three overtime periods. It just so happened I had a wide open net and I just banged it in,” said Lahue, who spent some time on the first line earlier this season. “Just an easy tap-in for me … and we are going to the championship.”
Charles Hall and Eric Craig also scored and Tommy Royer set up Lahue’s winning tally for South Burlington (20-2), which pushed its winning streak to 12 games to reach Wednesday’s D-I final at Gutterson Fieldhouse. South Burlington will play No. 3 Champlain Valley, the first time the rivals will meet in the finals.
But to set a finals date for a CSB Cup Part II, the Rebels had to outlast recent nemesis North Country. The Falcons ended South Burlington’s run a year ago, a double-overtime quarterfinal triumph, which left the Rebels to quietly stew.
“We knew that they came into our barn last year and the situation had presented itself tonight that they could do what they did last year,” SBHS coach Sean Jones said. “And our guys were pretty determined to not make that happen.”
So much so, the Rebels used it as motivation during a season where they are outscoring opponents 116-38 after Saturday’s win.
“Last year’s loss has kind of hung around all year long,” Jones said. “We didn’t talk about it a lot but it was definitely something in our hearts and in our heads that fueled and gave us some determination tonight.”
South Burlington and North Country traded power play goals 43 seconds apart in the first period — Hall for the Rebels and Logan Fortier answering for the Falcons.
The Falcons took a 2-1 lead 2:35 into the third period, with Ryan Paul deflected in Fortier’s long shot. Craig responded, swooping down the ice to create a scoring chance that he finished off himself at 6:04 of the third.
In the overtime periods, Bronson continued his brilliance while South Burlington’s David Streeter (41 saves) remained stellar and lucky — one North Country shot ricocheted off the bar, another smacked the post.
On the winning goal, Royer took the puck near center ice, weaved into the corner and whipped a shot on net, where Lahue capitalized to lift the Rebels while deflating the Falcons’ season.
“It doesn’t get any more disappointing than where we are right now, but we are very proud of what we did,” North Country coach Andrew Roy said. “It’s a very talented team South Burlington threw at us and we just weren’t able to come away with the win.”