By Pete Legasey
For the Transcript
The Winthrop Youth Hockey League’s Bantam A team has participated in three tournaments this season and won all of them. The most recent triumph earned them the right to call themselves state champions. The Bantam A’s won the Mass Hockey State Tournament for their age group with a 4-2 victory over Westwood at the John A. Ryan Arena in Watertown on Sunday.
Jake McKinnon got the scoring started in the title game with an unassisted goal. He also notched an assist on the team’s second goal, which was scored by Mitch Paulson. Dan Feeley scored what would prove to be the deciding goal for the Bantams with assists from Mitch and Michael Paulson. Feeley later assisted Jimmy Barker’s empty-net goal to round out the scoring.
“These kids have worked hard all year,” said head coach Anthony Martucci. “The great thing about this team is their closeness and camaraderie. That’s one great thing about being a coach with this team – you never have to worry about any arguments or fights among the players. At the end of the day, they’ll go down to the park and play street hockey, and they’ll go out for lunch on our days off. They’re a great group of kids.”
Camaraderie is great, but it took more than togetherness to put on the kind of show that the Bantams did in the state tournament. It began on with a three-game preliminary round to decide the seeding in the semifinals. In games against Stoneham, Hetland (a team of players from southeastern Mass.) and Tri-Valley, the Winthrop Bantams went 3-0 and outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 14-3. The games were even more lopsided than that score would indicate, as the Bantams held a 101-35 advantage in shots-on-goal through the preliminaries.
The team’s dominance was mitigated only slightly in the semifinal and final rounds of the tourney. Winthrop defeated Gardner, 5-2 on Sunday morning to advance to the final against Westwood later that day. Bobby Clewer gave the Bantams all of the offense they would need with a hat trick, which included an unassisted goal and two that were assisted by Nick Amatucci and Sean Donahue. Jake McKinnon added a goal with an assist from Mitch Paulson, and each of those two assisted on Dan Feeley’s goal to cap the scoring.
Gardner refused to go quietly, however, and staged a desperate rally in the third period. Coach Martucci credited the work of goalie Steven Waites and defensemen Luke Hodgkins, David Capone, Jimmy Barker and Mike Paulson for helping the Bantams weather the storm. Forwards Derek Eruzione and Steven Goddard also helped preserve the victory by keeping the puck moving while they were on the ice.
Besides praising his players and assistant coaches, Martucci thanked the Winthrop Police for escorting his team back into town after their win in the title game, and also to Paesan’s Restaurant for allowing the team to hold an impromptu pizza party in the backroom. He also thanked all of the parents for cheering on their kids and helping them get to games and practices, most of which were held at 6 a.m.
The Bantam A’s have had to cancel four games this season due to their heavy tournament schedule, and Mass Youth Hockey rules require those games to be counted as forfeits, which means the team has been saddled with four losses without being defeated on the ice. In the games that they played, however, the Bantams are 30-1-3 between their Valley League schedule, the state tournament, the district tournament and the Mike Eruzione Christmas Tournament.
The Bantams have one more chance to skate their way to the top of a tournament this season. The Valley League playoffs will begin this weekend, and the Bantams, who currently own the No. 2 seed and are assured a first-round bye, are scheduled to begin their postseason play early next week.