BOSTON – Dirty is a beautiful word.
At least it was to Burlington.
The Red Devils kept their game on the gritty side – in a clean sort of way – and wound up with their first Division 1 state championship, following their 6-2 triumph over Milton, Sunday, at TD Garden.
“It's the best,” said Burlington junior goalie Derek DeCastro. “We just won Division I state championship. I wouldn't ask for anything more, right now. And it's the best group of guys to do it with, too.”
Senior defenseman Steve Mattos agreed wholeheartedly.
“It means everything,” he said. “There's nothing better than a Division I state championship. It's a great program. Great people. We do the right thing.”
What they did best against Milton was keep it hard and simple.
Skate the lane, crash hard to the cage, finish the chance.
The Red Devils did all of the above and reaped the reward.
“With all shots,” said senior forward Brian Hood, who scored twice for Burlington, “keep them low and just drive the net. See if you can get some rebounds. Games like this are always dirty. Both teams going as hard as they can.”
The Red Devils led 1-0 after the first period and 3-1 after the second.
Hood struck for Burlington at the 1:31 mark, after jetted down the right wing in search of his own rebound, then and popped it past Milton goalie Jay Hankard (25 stops).
“It came off the goalie's pad,” said Hood. “I had to finish that. Right on the doorstep.”
The Wildcats missed out on a chance to tie the game at 10:31, when Dan Curran blew past a pair of defenders, but was thwarted by DeCastro (25 saves).
Brett Romkey made it 2-0 at 3:13 of the second, when he drove hard to the net down the right side, then sliced a backhander inside the near post.
The Red Devils seemed ready to pull away when, at 8:24, Adam Crowley took Joe Moran's right side centering feed and parked a 12-footer.
“We get to be a little too finesse at times,” Burlington head coach Bob Conceison said. “I felt like in a hot rink, if you can beat the guys to the
outside and get the pucks to the net, things can happen. And it happened.”
However, Milton began creating scoring chances of itself, and was able to work itself back into contention.
At 11:45, Mike Davis stole the puck in the Burlington zone but was beaten by DeCastro from point blank range.
But at 12:57, the Wildcats finally broke through, when Brendan Kelley's centering feed from behind the net found Lloyd Hill in the slot. Hill pulled the trigger and his tally gave Milton new life heading into the third period.
“I told our team,” said Milton senior defenseman Dan Curran, “'there's plenty of time.”
Hankard kept the Wildcats within reach with a huge glove save on Trevor Cimino on a power play just 40 seconds into the final stanza.
However, Burlington soon scored twice more, beginning with Dan McMahon's tally at 1:16, to put the game away.
“I don't want to say that took the wind out of our sails,” said Curran, “because we scored again. But that hurt the most.”
Milton's Brian Higgins made the margin closer, 5-2, when he deposited a wraparound at 3:47.
However, with the state title within their grasp, Burlington buckled down the rest of the way.
“To go out with your friends at the Garden,” Mattos said, “it's unexplainable how it feels.”