Brief Winter Season Recap

NOTE: This is just a recap of some of the teams in the area, will work on getting the rest of the teams in the upcoming days. 

So, after a couple of months of hectic work schedule, I am going to be bringing this back and hopefully no more lulls and can keep this going.

I will be out and about covering as many games as I can and putting up a number of features in the next couple of days.

With that said, I figured this would be a good spot to kind of highlight what’s been going on around the season and offer up my opinion (for what that may be worth) on things for some local teams as we start looking toward the postseason.

I won’t be able to touch on every team in the area, so just going to talk about some of the teams I have seen a bit throughout the winter.

One of the most exciting teams to watch this season has been the BFA-St. Albans girls basketball team. And that isn’t just because almost every game they have been in is a barn-burner, including two one-point wins over powerhouse CVU this season.

Out of the Comets’ 15 games they have played so far, 11 of those games have been decided by six or fewer points. In those 11 games, the team has found ways to come away with wins in nine of them.

This is a scrappy team that always does the little things to find ways to come away with these wins.

The Comets hold a 12-3 record as of Thursday and were sitting in the No. 2 slot in the VPA Division I standings. However, there isn’t much room for error if the Comets want to hold onto that spot, as they are tied record wise with CVU, Mt. Anthony and Rice. And the Comets have a huge game against Rice on Friday.

One of the things that works best for the Comets is their athleticism and their depth. The team has a good core of players and a good supporting cast. Seniors Hannah Earl and Andi Esenler lead the team that is composed of a lot of young players and have come through clutch in a number of games throughout the season. Esenler has hit a number of 3-pointers in the season that has turned games around that have been big wins.

To go along with Earl and Esenler, Kelly Laggis has been a solid post player during her sophomore season, despite teams starting to focus on her in the post. She might not be the tallest forward in the league and is sometimes outsized, but her effort and tenacity makes her a threat for coming down with rebounds and second-chance points.

Opponents have been focused on Earl, Esenler and Laggis all season, which has forced other players to start stepping up on the offensive end of the floor. Early in the season, some players were timid to shoot, but one player that has risen up is sophomore Lily McAllister, who has provided a spark for the team all season with her hustle plays and defense. But now, she has started to get involved more and more with the offense, which was evident in the team’s game against South Burlington when she had a big second quarter to help the team come back after an early deficit and hit a big 3 in the fourth to put the team up for good.

The team is extremely athletic throughout their rotations and have enough depth to go into a full-court press defense. The athleticism has helped make up for their lack of size in a big way and could help them get through a deep playoff run. Neither of the top two teams in Division I, (BFA and St. Johnsbury) have a ton of size to them in the post, but they are both extremely athletic, which has done well for both of them to this point and should keep doing well for them going forward.

Another team that has been making some noise throughout the year has been the Missisquoi girls’ hockey team. The Thunderbirds are currently sitting at 12-4-2 and third place in the Division II standings. With a big win over U-32 earlier this week, the team has assured themselves third place at the very least. They trail only Rice and Woodstock in the standings and have an opportunity to knock off the Wasps a week from Saturday in the regular-season finale.

The team’s four losses this season have been against Rice (twice), Woodstock and Division I Spaulding.

The Thunderbirds are in the midst of a five-game win streak heading into their final two games of the regular-season.

Olivia Thayer has been a force for the team this season, as she currently sits at 98 career points in her high school career as of Thursday and has a good chance of picking up those two points on Saturday against Stowe. Heading into the season, teams knew Thayer was the main offensive threat for the team, so coach Wynn Paradee said the team needed to find a way to find its offense, which it struggled to find at times last season.

Missisquoi has started to find its groove offensively as of late with a lot of good things coming from Adrianna Dostie (13 goals) providing another offensive threat for the team along with Alyssa Audet.

The team also has a solid defense and it has been getting better and better as the season has gone on.

One thing that has hurt the team throughout some of the games this season is having their penalty kill on the ice too much in the game. If the team plays disciplined, they are a tough team to stop.

The team can keep their momentum going with two final games, one on the road against Stowe on Saturday and home against Woodstock on February 25. It will be a hard fought Division II postseason this season, but I’m expecting it to be a battle between Missisquoi, Rice and Woodstock at the top, but it’s hockey, anything can happen.

Another team to look for heading into the postseason is the Missisquoi boys basketball team, who has been a surprise this season. At the beginning of the season, things looked like the Thunderbirds might be dropping down to Division II because of low student numbers in the school, but instead the team stayed up in Division I and have been flourishing.

The change of schedule has paid off in a big way, as the team currently sits at 12-4 in the standings; with three of those losses coming against undefeated Enosburg and the other coming against rival BFA-St. Albans.

The team has really started to come into its own after a rough start with three games against Enosburg early on. Richard Walker has been a force in every way for the Thunderbirds, as he has the potential of posting a triple-double in almost any game and has done so on a few occasions. Pair him with Nick Cutting and the team has a pair of big men, who can also shoot mid-range shots, which makes them both tough to guard.

One question mark coming into the season for the team was the play of its guards since no one had a bunch of experience in that role. Riley Wilkin has done a nice job of stepping in and handling the ball and providing a spark for the team with a lot of hustle plays. It will be interesting to see how the team does down the stretch of the season, including a home game against rival BFA, and see if they can make any noise. They currently sit in the five-spot of Division I with Brattleboro right on their heels. They would need to win out and have Rice lose a game or two to catch the Green Knights in the fourth spot, but we will have to see how the rest of the year plays out.

Speaking of Enosburg basketball, this is a team that is a lot of fun to watch, because you never know when a dunk might be coming or just the hustle plays they come away with.

The team is 16-0 as of Thursday and don’t look like they are slowing down in the least bit, as they head down toward the end of the season. Not only has the Hornets been winning these games, but they have been winning big. There has only been one team this year that has ended the game within single digits of Enosburg with Hazen taking them to double overtime on Feb. 1 and the Hornets coming away with a 80-75 win. Other than that game, the closest any team has come against them was Hazen again on Jan. 5 with Enosburg coming away with the 68-57 win.

This is a stacked team led by senior Calvin Carter, who has scored over 1500 career points and should be in serious contention for Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year. He not only scores points in bunches, but he does a phenomenal job handling the ball and getting teammates involved with good passes and he plays great defense, which makes him such a great all-around player.

And he has a lot of help from his teammates around him. Mahlik Franklin has also been a stud all season for the Hornets, and also has the potential to come away with a big dunk.

Not only is the team extremely talented, but they play hard in every game and are unselfish with the ball in every game, which is what makes them so dangerous. Any player can have a big game on any given night.

And the team is always going for the hustle plays no matter what the scenario.

Carter and Franklin, along with Matt Perley, Wade McAllister and Caleb Laroche provide a starting five, which any team will have a tough time handling throughout the postseason, as they go for their first title in program history this season.

They have the weapons to do it. They will most likely hold at least the No. 2 seed heading into the playoffs, which is where they stand as of Thursday with their 16-0 record only trailing Mill River (17-1) in the index points. It will certainly be an exciting postseason throughout the Division II boys basketball playoffs this year.

Flipping back to hockey, we have two programs who are always in the hunt for the title in the divisions with the BFA-St. Albans boys and girls hockey teams.

Starting with the boys, they have picked up right where they left off last season when they were hoisting the Division I championship.

After starting the season 3-2-1 with a tough loss against Spaulding and a less than stellar performance in a loss against South Burlington, the Bobwhites have gone 9-0-2 in their last 11 games and winning by multiple goals in every game except the third game against Spaulding (2-1 victory on Jan. 25).

The team travels to Rice on Saturday before hosting a couple of tough challenges next week when they face off against South Burlington and Essex. They will look to grab a couple of wins in their final two games against good competition to gain even more momentum heading into the postseason.

It will be another exciting postseason in Division I boys hockey this year with Spaulding and BFA holding the top 2 spots and they couldn’t be any more evenly matched. The two teams have played each other three times this season and each team has come away with a 2-1 victory to go along with a 1-1 tie. Barring any late season let downs from either side, the two teams should end the year with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, which means they wouldn’t meet until a championship game. If the three regular-season matchups were any indication of anything, if they were to meet up in the finals, that would be one for the ages.

The Bobwhites are a team that has a lot of size and plays physical on the puck, which at times has gotten them in trouble early in the season with penalties. The team seems to have figured things out on that end, as they have been red-hot lately.

The team also plays great defense anchored by freshman goalie Dan Ellis, who has been phenomenal in his first action in between the pipes at the high school level. He has only given up 27 goals this season in 17 games, which puts the Bobwhites in a nice place in every game.

The Bobwhites are looking to make another run at the title as they go after banner No. 18.

On the other side, the BFA girls hockey team has started to come up strong in the second half of the season and started to really find its rhythm.

After starting the season 2-5, the Comets have won 9 of 10 games since, including a big 2-0 win over Essex, who currently holds the top spot in Division I. During that stretch, the team has played great defense and has gotten good minutes between the pipes by freshman goalie Maddy Hungerford. The team has five shutouts over the last 10 games.

The Comets are streaking at the right time heading into the final three games of the regular season. They host winless Burr & Burton on Saturday before traveling to Rutland and hosting Middlebury next week. Next week’s games will be very good tests for the Comets, as they lost to both teams earlier in the season, so it will be a good test against two very good teams to end the season. The Comets have assured themselves at least the fourth spot in Division I heading into the playoffs and with some help, might be able to catch some of the teams ahead of them. Both Rutland and Middlebury sit ahead of them in the standings as of Thursday, so a pair of wins next week could help them move up.

Division I girls hockey has a new look to it this year. Instead of Essex and BFA being the only two teams in the mix and dominating everyone, Middlebury and Rutland have also started to come into their own with some great play throughout the season, which will make for exciting playoffs.

I know I missed some teams on here, but will be providing coverage as much as possible throughout the end of the regular season and the playoffs. It should be an exciting rest of the winter season.

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