STONEHAM — With a relatively small field, the rewards are high for winning in this year’s MIAA Div. 1 North boys’ hockey tourney. Win one game and your team is in the semifinals at Tsongas Center.
Winchester found out while it may sound easy, winning one game can be an epic chore, as was the case, last night, in its 3-2, shootout victory over Bishop Fenwick, at Stoneham Arena.
It came down to the Sachems’ finest finishers, Michael Drew and Nolan Butler, to deliver in the shootout, while goalie Rob DiVincenzo made four saves on five Crusader penalty shots in the 2-1 shootout win.
Third-seed Winchester will in fact play at the Tsongas Center, in the semifinals, Thursday evening against Billerica, at a time to be determined.
The Sachems were down, 2-0, after two periods, and seemed headed to the same fate as ML Liberty rivals Reading, who lost to Bishop Fenwick by the same score in the first round.
But Winchester came up with a goal from Butler at 3:56 of the third, and then another from Colin Van Stry at 12:08 to tie the game at 2-2 and eventually push it into overtime.
The first overtime had the teams going four-on-four for six minutes and the Sachems came up with 10 shots, but could not score. The Crusaders had their three shots in the last minute and DiVincenzo twice came up with huge saves to send into a second overtime, which was three-on-three for the same six minutes.
Winchester actually took a penalty with 2:46 left, which allowed Fenwick to add another player and go four-on-three for two minutes. The Sachems survived and the overtime ended with the teams playing four-on-four again.
The shootout was a best of five, with Winchester going first. Drew made a brilliant shift to the left, getting goalie Jake Moniz on the ice before backhanding the puck over him into the net.
Nick Muzi tied the shootout at 1-1 with a wrist shot that beat DiVincenzo up high. The goalies made saves on the next two attempts before Butler put the Sachems in front with a clever wrist shot over the left shoulder of Moniz and under the crossbar to make it 2-1.
DiVincenzo would stop the next three Bishop Fenwick attempts, including a 360-degree spin attempt by Diego Alvarez-Segee, to secure the epic victory.
“It was something,” said Winchester coach Bill Burns, whose team will take a 15-7-0 overall record into Thursday’s game with Billerica. “It was a typical tournament game, you got no gimmes here. This is a state tournament game and this is how they go. I’m glad we hung in there after being down for two periods. We woke up in the third, thank goodness, survived two overtimes and came out on top.”
Jake Murphy gave the Crusaders the initial 1-0 lead at 13:33 of the first period. He stole the puck in front of the Winchester bench, near the blue line, and skated in on DiVincenzo, who made the initial save before Murphy put the rebound past him.
Winchester had a golden opportunity in the second period when it had a two-man advantage for 1:24. The Sachems had their chances but Fenwick also did a great job of limiting those chances before the penalties expired.
Murphy made it 2-0 at 12:30 of the second with a perfect shot from low in the left circle off a pass from Alvarez-Segee. The shot found the slimmest of openings between DiVincenzo’s right arm and the left post.
“I told the kids, ‘We’ve done this before,’ we’ve come out in the third period and put together a solid period. We woke up and decided it’s not going to be over tonight.”
The Sachems began generating excellent pressure, early in the third, and it resulted in Butler’s goal from about the same spot as Murphy’s second goal.
Winchester nearly tied it a minute later on an incredible transition rush, but the goal was disallowed because it was ruled the net came off the moorings before the puck went over the line.
Van Stry tied it while cutting through the slot, taking a pass from Butler and forcing the puck underneath Moniz, who appeared to make the save, only to have the puck trickle just an inch or so over the line, behind him, resulting in a delayed reaction from the Sachem fans, who were down the other end of the stands.
“The kids really rallied well and those overtimes are rough - the kids were gassed and it shortens the bench - but they hung right in there,” said Burns. “We are just happy we have a game, Thursday night.”
While Drew and Butler proved to be elite snipers in the shootout, Burns credited DiVincenzo for being a rock between the pipes.
“Our goaltender, Rob DiVincenzo, played out of his mind, and stopped four out of five,” said Burns. “Jump on my back and I’ll take us for a ride. That’s what it is.”
The Sachems are looking forward to taking the ice at Tsongas Center, Thursday night, in what is likely to be the first game, with St. Johns’s Prep and Andover being the other semifinal.