WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Agawam Brownies learned earlier this season that they would be making the move upward from Division 3A to Division 3 next season.
But before preparing for its new course as the newest member of the tough Barry Division, Agawam still had some unfinished business to take care of Thursday night.
In the MIAA Division 3A state final, the Brownies used a suffocating defense and some opportune offense to pull out a 3-1 victory over Grafton/Blackstone Valley Tech at the Olympia Ice Center.
For the Brownies, the state title is their first as they finish with a record of 19-3-2. The Indians, playing in their first state final, close out their season at 18-5-1.
“We were aware as to how good that team was,” Agawam head coach Rich Feeley said. “But the reality is we’re a good team too. Tonight it was a collective effort by our defense. We had to make sure we were working together as a team and we did that.”
After surrendering an early first period goal by Grafton/BVT senior forward Pat Lorden, the Brownies stifled the Indians attack the rest of the way.
At 8:19 of the opening period sophomore Zach Cincosta tied the game for Agawam with a quick release just in front of the Indians’ crease.
During the next two periods, Grafton/BVT never got its offense out of neutral. There were the occasional opportunities, but senior goaltender Anthony Ascioti stoned them at every turn, finishing with 23 saves.
“We knew before the game to watch their two good players [Mike Palmer and Mike Moran] as we were playing,” said Ascioti. “I had to make sure I was focusing square to the puck all the time. This is such a great feeling. It’s the best thing ever.”
While the Indians found the ability to create space and separate difficult, the Brownies seemed to have no problems in that department. The difference in this one came in the second period when Agawam struck for a pair of goals.
Joseph Shea was in the right place after a rebound off of Grafton/BVT goalie Sean Pratt’s pads came into his direction. The junior found the left side of the net wide open and deposited the puck into it at 7:10.
With just 21 seconds on the clock and the Brownies on the power play, sophomore Cam Rivest ripped a shot coming down the right side that Pratt (26 saves) was slow in getting a glove on making it 3-1.
For the final 15 minutes, Agawam stuck to its game plan of maintaining its solid defense shield and to not get careless with the puck and give Grafton/BVT any easy attempts. The Indians finished with seven shots in the final period but Ascioti turned aside all of them to seal the victory.
“Agawam played a great defensive game, were very physical and their goalie had a great game too,” Indians first-year coach Brian Lehtinen said. “They fore checked hard and put a lot of pressure on us. It’s a tough loss but it was an amazing season for us.”