The 19th installment of the Newburyport Bank Hockey Classic kicks off this afternoon at the Henry Graf Memorial Skating Rink, and by the end of the week each of the area’s four local teams will have a chance to finish up the regular season with some hardware.
The weeklong tournament consists of 16 teams in four different divisions, each of which will award its own championship trophy. Newburyport and Triton are in the Bresnahan Division along with Andover and Matignon. Amesbury is in the Gulazian Division with Masconomet, Bishop Fenwick and Marblehead, and Pentucket is competing in the Doyle Division with Haverhill, Rockport and Shawsheen Tech. The last group, known as the Fournier Division, includes Danvers, Lincoln-Sudbury, Saugus and North Andover.
Amesbury kicks off its tournament schedule today at 3 p.m. against Marblehead, and Pentucket opens tomorrow against Rockport at 3 p.m., but the highlight of the tournament’s first day figures to be tonight’s showdown between longtime rivals Newburyport and Triton at 7 p.m.
“To me, there’s no better setting than to play your rival and your archenemy and have so much on the line,” Triton head coach Drew Wile said. “That is why you play and the kind of games that you want to be in.”
Winners of their last four, Triton (8-9-2) has set itself up for its biggest game of the season to come against Newburyport.
“It’s my 15th year coaching and I’ve never not made the state tournament,” Wile said. “So I’m in uncharted waters as a coach. Tournament hockey is so far and beyond regular hockey. It’s not comparable. The smallest mistake can cost you the game and there is no tomorrow, so we try to rely on the few guys we have with experience and play as mistake free as possible.”
Newburyport (10-7-1), like Triton, has been playing good hockey of late and is 4-1 in their previous five games.
“I think we are playing ok,” said Newburyport head coach Paul Yameen. “It’s always a tough tournament and we open with Triton who is our biggest rival. I expect a great atmosphere and a very good high school hockey game.”
The winner of this matchup will have the ability to play its style while benefiting from strong goaltending.
“We just have to play our style,” Yameen said. “When we play our style we are a pretty good team. We get in trouble when we get away from it. If we go in with a simple gameplan that we can follow we will be fine.”
Monday’s game will be the rematch of the game played on Jan. 18 in which Newburyport secured a 5-3 win. Wile hopes that a similar effort and approach will result in a different ending the second time around.
“We basically have to do the same thing as last time,” Wile said. “We have to match them physically. They have tremendous depth and we don’t so our third line has to match their third line. The last game, their third line scored a goal and a power play goal so we have to stay five-on-five.”
“It also comes down to goal tending,” he continued. “Their goaltending has been inconsistent and ours has been too so I think we are both going into this game in uncharted waters. That’s just the way it is this year, but they are very good and have our number.”
Newburyport Bank Tournament Today's Schedule: All games at the Graf Rink in Newburyport Masconomet vs. Bishop Fenwick, 1 p.m. Marblehead vs. Amesbury, 3 p.m. Matignon vs. Andover, 5 p.m. Triton vs. Newburyport, 7 p.m.