PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The Berkshire Bruins Bantams earned a 4-3 overtime win in the title game of the Gib Kittredge Tournament on Sunday night at the Boys & Girls Club.
Stop us because you won’t be able to stop the killer B’s.
Joshua Hunter put back the rebound of his own shot in the first minute of the second OT to give the hosts their second divisional crown of the night at the 47th annual event with a comeback win over Bethlehem, N.Y.
A year ago, it was Hunter’s teammate Caleb Kollmer scoring to give the Bruins a 4-3 win over Avon, Conn.
On Sunday, Kollmer was on the ice for the 3-on-3 second OT period, stealing the puck in the neutral zone to start the winning play. Hunter ended up with the puck on the left wing and skated in on goalie Ari Haddad (22 saves).
“I just took it … I was thinking about passing it, and no one was there, so took it in and shot it,” Hunter said. “The rebound was there, and I saw a little opening, put it in there, and that was it.”
“It” was a wild celebration to cap a very successful night for the host Bruins.
Earlier in the evening, the Berkshire Squirt Majors earned a 4-2 win over Pawling, N.Y., behind goals from Eric Harrington and Cody Soper and 20 saves from Hunter Shepardson.
In the Bantams final, it looked like the B’s would have no trouble avenging a Saturday 4-2 loss to Bethlehem in pool play when Luke Peplowski scored in the game’s first minute with assists from Seamus Hayes and Ryder King.
It stayed 1-0 through the end of the first period thanks to 14 first-period saves by Nate Haley, who went on to stop 43 shots in his second straight Gib Kittredge championship between the pipes.
“Nate’s a spectacular goalie,” Berkshire Bantams coach Rob Abel said. “He keeps things simple. He’s pretty calm in net. Goalies need to have short memories and, almost, the more boring in net the better. He kept us in it when we had that little struggle in the middle of the game. But it was a team effort all the way on.
“All four lines played great, defensemen played great and, obviously, Nate’s always solid for us.”
Berkshire took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Peplowski scored his second of the game off a rush down the left wing.
But Bethlehem closed the second period with three goals in a 2 minute, 45 second stretch. The first two goals scores on rebounds off of Haley. The third was a Peter Murphy tip of a Nathaniel Plummer blast from high on the right wing to give the New Yorkers a 3-2 lead after two periods.
“Coach helped us out a lot, telling us to stay focused,” Haley said. “But we just paid attention to the game and went with the flow. Everybody gave their best effort, and our energy won it.”
The Bruins tied it with a Hayes goal in transition with 8:52 left in the third period. Kollmer earned the assist to knot the game at three apiece, and Haley stood on his head down the stretch to keep it a tie game and force overtime.
The OT format called for the teams to play four minutes of 4-on-4 hockey followed by three minutes of 3-on-3.
Abel said the open ice was a blessing for his Bruins.
“It’s going to play into our game,” Abel said. “We have a couple of guys who can really skate. The second year players who have been with me for a while, their strength is their skating. I’d play any team, 3-on-3, 2-on-2, whatever it takes.”
The Bruins Squirt Majors fought through six man-down situations and never trailed in their tournament finale.
Soper scored on a breakaway with 4:45 left in the first period to give Berkshire a lead, and Harrington followed moments later to give the Bruins some breathing room.
Harrington’s goal came short-handed; nine seconds later, Pawling converted its first of six power play chances to make it a 2-1 game.
“It’s Squirt hockey, it happens,” Berkshire coach Dan Kearns said of the penalties. “That was a great youth hockey game. It was great to be a part of it. The crowd was electric. The Kittredge Tournament brought a great buzz to the weekend, and my kids responded like they have the last two years.
“[On special teams] the ice surface gets bigger, and I have a couple of studs out there who who can take advantage of the big ice surface. We like to be aggressive. We don’t like seeing a lot of penalties, but we know how to handle them. … With the team I have in front and our goalie, we can pretty much kill off any penalty.”
Shepardson was steady all night and stopped a penalty shot with Berkshire ahead, 1-0, in the first.
“He’s a rock,” Kearns said. “He’s the glue that holds our team together, and the team really responds to him. He’s very even-keeled, which is what you want to see in a goaltender. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
In the second, Harrington scored his second of the game on a rush up the right wing to make it 3-1.
Pawling got its second power play goal early in the third to draw within a goal, but Soper lit the lamp a second time to put the game out of reach with 3:43 on the clock.
“That felt really good,” Soper said. “Since we did that, I felt we were going to win all the way.”
Kearns said that win will pay dividends down the road for the young icers.
“As someone who grew up in the program, I know it always means something to win the Kittredge Tournament,” he said. “They got to do it in their second try, which is awesome. The pressure is off from now on.”
The Bruins Majors have won three tournaments in three outings this season and have a few more shots to hang some banners, starting with a trip to Lake Placid at the end of February.
“We’re looking forward to the finish, but this one’s going to be hard to beat,” Kearns said.
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