One win away from going to Garden
BILLERICA – None one really knew what to expect from the Tewksbury Memorial High School Boys’ Hockey team this season. But winning 17 games, reaching the sectional final and still playing games in the second week of March certainly never entered anyone’s minds when tryouts began in late November.
Well that’s exactly what has happened to this overachieving Redmen team.
For the third time under head coach Derek Doherty, Tewksbury will be playing for a Division 2 North sectional championship on Monday when it takes on the No. 1 seed Beverly Panthers at the Tsongas Arena at 6:00 pm.
The Redmen reached the sectional final after two tournament wins this past week, first a 4-1 win over Masconomet on Friday before a thrilling 3-2 win over the No. 7 seed Marblehead Magicians before a large crowd at the Chelmsford Forum played Monday night.
The two wins pushes Tewksbury’s record to 17-3-2 on the season, while the two playoff wins are the first victories in the tournament since the Redmen captured the program’s second Division 2 State Title back in 2011. Now, a win on Monday against Beverly, would put the team back into the state title game at the TD Garden on Sunday, March 16th.
But before Tewksbury can get ahead of itself thinking about playing on the Garden Ice, it must get by a very talented Beverly team, which spanked Lincoln-Sudbury 5-1 on Monday night – and that’s the same LS team who Tewksbury couldn’t beat in two tries this season with a loss and a tie. Beverly comes in very hungry for a state championship after early exits the past two seasons.
Thus far the Panthers defeated league rival Danvers 2-1 in a shoot-out before clipping Lincoln-Sudbury to improve to 20-1-1 on the season. The last time these two teams met was in that 2011 championship season where the Redmen skated off with a dominating 6-1 win in the semi-final round.
While that semi-final round victory was rather easy, Monday night’s win over Marblehead was the total opposite. The packed house at the Forum saw an exceptional game. Tewksbury relied on its first line trio of Jack Cash, Colin Quinn and Ryan Petti who figured in all three goals, while the team received an exceptional performance once again in net by goalie Kyle Paquette, who turned away 24 of 26 shots.
The entire Tewksbury team had difficult chores all night of trying to shut down a very fast, somewhat big and powerful Marblehead team, which had been shifted up to Division 2 after very successful years in Division 3 including a state championship of their own in the same 2011 season.
“We played pretty well tonight,” said Doherty after the win. “It was a little back-and-forth, chess match going on. They scored that goal with one second left in the first period and we had to settle them down a bit. A lot of times teams can come out (from the locker room) and take advantage of that. These kids have been good and very coachable so we just had to go inside and settle them down a bit. We just told them to stay the course and if we play our systems, we’ll be fine.
“I thought we played a pretty good second and third period, even though they scored that second goal, they were kind of playing desperation and sending guys up. That number seven (Matt Koopman) is pretty quick and was on the ice a lot so we tried to put a body on him whenever we could. In the third period we tried to get a little bit more physical with him and here we are.”
Koopman and his older brother Tom each had 34 regular season points this season and were very tough to defend with their explosive speed and stickhandling abilities. But at the same time, so was the trio of Quinn, Cash and Petti. It seemed like they did a much better job in the open areas skating with the puck, developing offensive chances and dominating in the neutral zone.
“The first line played great,” said Doherty. “The last few games they have been playing pretty good. I also thought our defense played well especially in the third period to secure that win. Quinn has been great the last few games but they all have. Everyone on this team has their own roll that they have to play.”
Then there was Paquette who was tremendous all night. He made a number of huge saves throughout the entire 45 minutes of play. It started with two saves in the low slot area off the stick of Tom Koopman late in the first period. Then in the second, he made two huge point blank saves off the stick of defenseman Alex DelVento, who fired a slap shot before teammate Liam Gillis followed up the rebound and both were denied by No. 1.
Later in the second, Gillis was stuffed again on two in-tight shots which kept the score at 2-1 in favor of Tewksbury heading into the third.
“Kyle played great,” said Doherty. “He definitely did. He also has stayed the course. Kyle has been good for us all season long. If we keep the shots outside, he’ll make the saves and they did get some shots off from inside which we really don’t like but it was a big game and Kyle came to play tonight.”
Paquette watched his teammates take the lead coming just under two minutes left in the first period. Petti was able to head-man the puck to Quinn, who was sent in on a short in-tight breakaway off the right side. As Quinn came onto the net, he tried a backhander but the puck got away from him and went to the back boards. He stayed with it and then sent a pass back to the slot to Cash who buried the biscuit making it 1-0 with 1:50 left in the period.
Seconds after Paquette made two saves, Marblehead was able to tie the game back up with just 1.6 seconds left in the frame. Erik Powers sent a nice pass from the left to the right side of the net and Tim Kalinowski was able to lift the puck over the glove hand of Paquette on a bang-bang play sending the teams to the locker room all knotted up at one.
Again Tewksbury took the lead scoring with 7:13 left in the period to go up 2-1. This time it was Cash who kept the puck inside the Marblehead zone near the top of the blue line and he took a few strides to his left before feeding Sean Brady with a pass. He then slid the puck down to Quinn, who fired three shots, all saved by netminder Harrison Young. The puck then stayed alive and squirted to Young’s left, and on a tough angle, Petti was there to scoop up the free puck and lift it to the far left side of the net for the 2-1 lead.
The score stayed that way until the sixth minute of the third period when the Redmen took a two-goal lead. Petti sent a flip pass up the left hand boards to Cash, who quickly moved into the Marblehead zone on a 2-on-1 break. He calmly picked up his head, gave a nice pass across to his right to Quinn who one-timed the pass with a hard shot to the back of the net for what turned out to be the game winner.
Marblehead made things interesting scoring its second goal of the game just seconds after pulling Young for the extra skater with 1:14 left. From there Tewksbury held on including a huge body check by defenseman Brett Morris to take out the puck carrier on a 2-on-2 break with seconds left in the game.
“We beat a very good team,” said Doherty. “We are young but we have great leaders. Our captains do a great job. The kids just work really hard.”