It is a sports axiom that tourney time leaves no margin for error. With a “one and done” format, no team can afford to make mistakes because every opponent is eager and hungry and deserves to be there.
The Winthrop High hockey team had not yielded more than three goals all season Moreover, the Vikings had not lost a game since mid-December, a skein that included a decisive 5-1 victory over Beverly just two weeks ago in a contest that propelled Winthrop past the Panthers for the Northeastern Conference championship.
But there’s a reason that playoff time is called the second season, not just for the lower seeds, but for the top seeds as well. League titles, prior winning streaks, and the like all mean nothing when the next game could be your last.
The WHS boys hockey team found out the meaning of those sports truisms with a 5-4 loss to Beverly Saturday evening at a jam packed Stoneham Arena.
“We made too many mistakes,” said WHS head coach Dale Dunbar. “We broke down in areas that we never do. It was just one of those games that if it happened during the regular season, you wouldn’t think twice about it because you would work to improve for the next game. But in the tourney, you don’t get second chances.”
After Beverly grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening period, Joe Scarfo, the top sniper in the Northeastern Conference this season, scored twice in the second frame to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead. However, Beverly refused to allow the momentum to swing in Winthrop’s favor and notched the equalizer before the second horn sounded.
The teams continued to trade punches and counterpunches in the third period. Winthrop initially took a 3-2 advantage, only to see Beverly respond with two markers for a 4-3 lead. Winthrop countered with the tying tally with 3:47 to play, but Beverly delivered the final blow just 30 seconds later, though not without some controversy. Winthrop fans and players alike believed that Viking goalie Steve Waites had stopped the puck before it crossed the line, but the ref (who was not in any real position to see the puck) ruled that Stephen had pulled it back out and awarded Beverly the goal.
“Whether the goal was good or not, we never should have been in that position,” said Dunbar, whose Vikings outshot Beverly by a wide margin, including a few dingers off the post.. “We had many chances to break the game open and put Beverly away, but we could not capitalize.”
Winthrop previously had triumphed in its first round encounter with a 3-2 win over Lincoln Sudbury last Thursday in Watertown. Nick Clewer, Drayton Chasteen, and Scarfo scored the Winthrop goals, with Scarfo’s coming on a power play with less than four minutes to play.
And thus Winthrop’s Journey to the Tourney taught the truth of another sports axiom, paraphrased as follows: Live by the late goal, die by the late goal.
Although the Vikings and their fans certainly had hoped for a longer excursion into the tourney, the 2010-11 campaign still will rate as one of the most successful in the program’s history. The Vikings put an NEC title into the record books and recorded individual accolades that saw defenseman Jake Rand be named NEC Player of the Year and Scarfo and Chris LeBlanc share the NEC scoring crown.