Saturday’s contest between the Peabody and Winthrop High hockey teams, which had been billed as the game of the season in the Northeastern Conference, did not disappoint the hardy hockey fans who turned out to watch the encounter. By the time the final horn had sounded, the first place Tanners and their chief rivals, the Vikings, had battled to an epic scoreless duel, which saw Winthrop go all out, but fall just short, in the final 32 seconds in a desperate and dramatic effort to push across the winning goal.
Winthrop came into the game as the hottest team in the NEC, while the Tanners boasted two 100 career point scorers in Matt Rodgers and Andrew Bucci (whose line accounted for 14 points Sunday against Danvers). Both teams gave as good as they got, with Viking goalie Pat Feeley and his Peabody counterpart both coming up with big saves when they needed to.
But in truth, Winthrop carried the play, especially in the second and third periods, and held an unofficial edge in shots on goal by a 3-2 margin.
With both teams physically and emotionally drained after 44:28 of up and down hockey, the contest came to this in the final 32 seconds: A Peabody player was called for tripping, giving Winthrop the power play. At that point, WHS head coach Dale Dunbar asked his players whether they wanted to pull their goalie for a 6 on 4 advantage and go all out for the win,
“Everyone said let’s go for it,” said Dunbar. “We knew we were three points behind Peabody coming into the game, so a tie would not have done us any good. We wanted to play for the win.”
With his team in full support of the gutsy call, Dunbar diagramed a play that the Vikings executed to near perfection. But as we all know, almost only counts in horseshoes, and as close as the Vikings came to scoring in those frantic final seconds, they were unable to push the puck over that final red line.
Peabody had a chance at winning the game in the waning seconds, but Jake Rand deflected a shot off the stick by Bucci that prevented the puck from going into the open net to preserve the tie.
“It was a tremendous game between two fine teams,” said Dunbar afterwards. “We left everything out on the ice. We shut down one of the most explosive teams on the North Shore and ran into a hot goalie. I could not have asked for anything more from my players.”
The Peabody contest was sandwiched in between a pair of non league encounters in which the Vikings handily dispatched their opponents. Last Wednesday, Winthrop overwhelmed Bishop Fenwick, 9-3, led by Joe Casey’s hat trick and Harry Benson’s two goals. Also lighting the lamp were Kyle Cummings, Ryan McKinnon, Nick Clewer, and Rand.
On Monday, Winthrop efficiently took care of business against Somerville with a 5-0 triumph, the Vikings’ eighth shutout of the season. Five Winthrop players took turns zipping the puck into the Somerville net: Chris LeBlanc (assisted by Casey and Brendan Loomis), Nick Clewer (assisted by Bobby Clewer and Alex Hamilton), Casey (assisted by Loomis and Cummings), Adam Lundberg (assisted by Will Millar and Jim Barker), and Joe Scarfo (assisted by Loomis).
The Vikings, who now stand at a lofty 12-1-2 on the season, hosted Revere last night (Wednesday) and will host Danvers Saturday evening with a 7:20 face off.