Wilmington's Jared Venezia and Reading's Sean Barbera battle for the puck

Wilmington's Jared Venezia and Reading's Sean Barbera battle for the puck during an earlier season game.     (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com).

HAVERHILL – Coming off its thrilling win over defending Division 1 state champion Winchester, the Wilmington High School boys hockey team was hoping to carry that momentum into the annual Haverhill Christmas Tournament played last Thursday and Saturday night.

In the first contest, the Wildcats faced a strong North Andover club (not Exeter, NH which was incorrectly reported last week) and were defeated 3-2, putting the team into the consolation round of their bracket where they came back and defeated Newton North, 4-0.

The 1-1 split puts the team at 3-2 through the first five games of the season.

"We're still searching for that complete game," said head coach Steve Scanlon. "When we get back into the league schedule, especially these next four games which will be extremely important, we need to play all three periods and 45 minutes. We have yet to do that. We also need to get some secondary scoring."

Against North Andover, Wilmington took a 1-0 lead after the first period, then trailed 2-1 after two and 3-1 early in the third, before getting one back to make it 3-2.

The 'Cats had plenty of chances in the final few minutes with a power play and pulling goalie Anthony Cuozzo for the extra skater, but couldn't put any others past a strong NA goalie Patrick Green, who turned away a combined 42 saves, including 20 in the championship win over Exeter, NH and was named the tournament's MVP.

"In the first period, I thought both teams came out flat," said Scanlon. "You could tell both teams were a little sluggish coming off the Christmas break."

Wilmington scored that first goal as Joe Hill found the back of the net on a shot from the mid-slot area with assists going to Jared Venezia and Christian Robarge.

North Andover netted two goals in the second as Scanlon said his team didn't play well, but added that the team responded and played well in the third, especially after giving up a goal on blown face-off coverage, as Hill netted his second on a power play on an assist from Matt Pendenza.

"We had a good third period and we were really storming the net and throwing everything at the kid in the last four-plus minutes," said Scanlon. "(Green) made some real good saves. North Andover is a good team, no doubt, but we didn't play well in the middle frame. We needed to play the whole game like we did in the third period."

In the win over NN, Pendenza scored two goals, while, Venezia and Robarge had one each. Venezia, Robarge, Zach Kincaid and goalie Sam Cedrone all picked up one assist. Cedrone pitched a shut out in his first varsity start, making all 15 saves.

Wilmington has a tough schedule coming up as the team faced Melrose on Tuesday with results not known as of presstime, before going to Burlington on Saturday afternoon and then will go up against Wakefield later next week.

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