BOSTON — The anticipation lasted an extra two hours for the Winchester High boys’ ice hockey team, and maybe that took the Sachems a little bit away from their usual approach as Winchester fell to Duxbury, 3-1, in the MIAA Div. 1 State final, last night at TD Garden.
It was a long night for everybody, actually, but that was because the game before the Div. 1 State final went to four overtimes before B.C. High beat Pope Francis, 2-1. That led to a 9:59 p.m. puck drop in a game originally scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m.
The Sachems came out flying in the first period and had the Dragons back on their heels at times, but they could not get the puck behind junior goalie Steve Pisani.
Winchester continued to play well in the second, which was reflected by how quickly the Sachems rallied after Duxbury’s Friend Weiler got the game’s first goal.
The scoring chances were less frequent as the game moved on and the Winchester-Duxbury game was starting to take on that same look of the previous game, until Duxbury’s Friend Weiler stole the puck from a Winchester defenseman, went in alone on a breakaway and tucked the puck underneath Rob DiVincenzo for a 2-1 lead with 4:02 left in regulation.
The Sachems gave themselves chances to score in the final four minutes, as they did throughout the game, but were unable to convert.
“The played great defense and their goaltending was solid,” said Winchester coach Bill Burns. “We put pressure on them in the first period and he made a couple great saves. We had our opportunities but we were unable to pop one in.”
Weiler would have all three Duxbury goals, as he added an empty-net goal with two seconds left, and Pisani had 21 saves while keeping Winchester in check.
“I’m speechless right now, I have no words,” said Weiler, in a postgame press conference, on getting the hat trick in the championship game. “It’s awesome.”
Weiler’s first goal came midway through the second period of the scoreless contest, and came immediately after DiVincenzo made his best save of the game on his initial shot.
The rebound came back to him and Weiler did not miss when given a second chance.
Before the Dragons could get used to enjoying the lead, the Sachems came back to tie the game at 1-1 only 43 seconds later.
Angelo Mario got a point-blank opportunity in the slot for Winchester, he got off the shot, only to be robbed by Pisani. The rebound went to the left, and Mix pounced on it and buried it in the back of the net.
“We fell off a little bit today, but you know it’s the end of the season, we are running three lines and the kids were trying to stay hydrated,” said Burns. “Sometimes things don’t go your way. You don’t get a bounce here, a bounce there. That’s what happed there along with a couple mistakes defensively, and they were able to capitalize.”
The go-ahead goal came out of the blue. The Sachem defender had the puck near the red line at center ice, when Weiler stole the puck and went in alone. He faked left, went for the far post and tucked the puck underneath DiVincenzo’s outstretched left pad for the huge goal.
“It’s something I’ve worked on in practice the whole season,” said Weiler, of the move he put on DiVincenzo to finish the breakaway. “It came up big.”
Winchester skated well, which helped keep up the pressure the whole game, but the Sachems could only muster three shots in the third period.
“They were really good, they were one of the best teams we played all season,” said Duxbury goalie Pisani. “Similar to Barnstable or Franklin, they all are good teams. They fought hard and made it a close game.”
Three minutes into the game, Pisani came up with a huge save on Joe Lepore. The rebound landed behind Pisani and in the crease. Lepore tried to tap it in but a Dragon defender was able to knock him off the play.
Winchester’s first power-play chance led to an immediate scoring opportunity. The Sachems had their whole line bearing down on him when he made back-to-back great saves.
“They definitely outplayed us in the first couple periods,” said Pisani. “But in the third period we definitely stepped it up and we played really well.”
The final result hardly diminishes was a super postseason run for the Sachems, who could have easily lost all three games they won.
“Overall we had a great season,” said Burns. “Couldn't be prouder of these kids. I’ve been coaching 38 years now and this may be the team I’m most proud of. They weren’t supposed to be here, we were supposed to be eliminated early. They were just a great group of young men.”
Winchester (17-8-0) will graduate seven seniors but still be in good shape when the next season begins at the end of November.