FITCHBURG -- Longtime Wallace Civic Center scorekeeper Jim Lapointe couldn't wait to crank the music up just before the start of the third period Sunday afternoon.

There was a little history at play in his song choice: No. 2 Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley held a two-goal lead on top-seeded Grafton/Blackstone Valley Tech through half an hour, and the last time the two teams played here, the Indians had come back from a two-goal deficit and escaped with a tie, their lone blemish coming into the Central Mass. Division 3A final.

But if Grafton had any thoughts of coming from behind again, well ... as Judas Priest said before the teams returned to the ice, "You've Got Another Thing Coming.

Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley fans cheer on their team. SUN/JEFF PORTERSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley fans cheer on their team. SUN/JEFF PORTER

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
"

Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley held on and even padded the lead in the final three minutes, putting away the Indians in front of the Knights' home fandom with five unanswered goals to claim their first ice hockey title in 36 years, 5-1.

The Blue Knights (17-4-1) now move on to Wednesday night's Division 3A state final against Western Mass. champ Easthampton (12-3-7), which knocked off Belchertown, 5-2, on Thursday night, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield at 7:30 p.m.

The defeat of Grafton (20-1-1) leaves Hanover as the lone unbeaten boys hockey team in the state.

Longtime Lunenburg coach Eric Short gabe rapid-fire fist pumps to the fan section as he walked off the ice following the trophy presentation.


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"Words can't explain it," Short said. "All the morning practices, all the hard work, we had an unbelievable year. We were chasing Grafton the whole time. We had 2-1 leads, much like tonight, going into the third. (Grafton has) come back -- they're the best team all year. To come out tonight and come up with the win on the big stage, it's amazing.

"We played outstanding. My defensemen, my goaltender, everyone who stepped on the ice, were outstanding against a very good hockey team. The goal was to get to a state championship."

Senior Jared Simmons scored two goals and was pivotal in the game-tying goal just before the end of the opening period.

Connor Viviano had scraped for the faceoff to the right of Grafton goalie Cam Powell, with Simmons coming up with it. Simmons skated behind the net, and with Powell sliding left to play the potential poke-in, Simmons found Nate Handy, who swept the puck in for the equalizer.

"We practice that one all the time," Simmons said. "Handy, he's only a freshman, and he was standing in the perfect spot, and I didn't even have to look: I knew he'd be there. He just put it right in the back of the net for me."

Simmons, who returned to the Knights after playing the last two seasons with the Tyngsboro Junior Islanders, then gave Lunenburg a 2-1 lead 4:07 into the middle period, as he tipped Robby Carpenter's shot from the point up and over Powell's shoulder. That came with the Knights rushing forward, thanks in part to Jacob Mauro blocking a shot by Grafton's Seth Vartabedian.

Mauro had skated in from his blue line and ripped a shot that Powell had caught in the gut, the faceoff staying in his zone.

Thirty-eight seconds later, Carpenter fired, and Simmons got his blade on it for the redirect.

"(Carpenter) is great for getting the puck to the net," Simmons said. "He has a lot of assists like that, and I knew it would be perfect and low, right on the ice, to tip it home.

"We're ecstatic (at winning the title). I mean, it's crazy: 36 years is twice as long as we've been alive, so it's really special."

Simmons then gave the Knights a two-goal cushion with seven seconds remaining in the middle period, as his slap shot from near the top of the circle beat Powell to light the lamp.

"Jared scored 30 points as a freshman; he came back to us his senior year," Short said. "He's been in juniors for two years. He came back for this sole reason. I promised him that if he came back to play high school hockey, that this was a possibility. He gave me a hug at the end and said, 'This is the best decision I've ever made.'

"Any kid out there who's thinking about leaving to play juniors or whatnot, they should call up Jared Simmons and ask him what he thinks about it."

Lunenburg nearly had that two-goal lead 20 seconds earlier, as Mauro tried to connect with classmate Viviano near the crease, but the pass was just a hair offline.

The Indians had come out fired up in the third, ripping shot after shot after shot at Lunenburg netminder Nathan Bourdelais (25 saves), who remained a brick wall.

"We had to keep doing what we were doing," Short said. "Keep the pedal to the metal and don't let them back in it."

With a man advantage in the first three-plus minutes of the third, Grafton had three shots on goal during the power play.