By Tim Lima
---- — BYFIELD – The Squirt AAA hockey team solidified its place as Triton Youth Hockey’s best team in program history, winning the organization’s first ever Massachusetts State Championship.
“We had a very skilled team,” head coach Paul Kohan said. “It wasn’t a team of just one or two superstars, but it consisted of 13 very good hockey players. I saw them come together as a group, especially in the overnight tournament setting. It was good for them to bond over the course of the weekend and come together to pull out the win.”
While any championship run is impressive, state title runs have been anything but common for Triton Youth Hockey. In fact, Sunday’s championship game win in Springfield was the program’s first title.
“I grew up playing for Triton Youth Hockey in 1979, so we are talking about at least 40 years of program existence,” Kohan said. “This is the first state championship in any level for the program.”
While his team comprised of 9 and 10-year-olds was expected to perform well this season, Kohan knew that team bonding would be mandatory if it was going to perform to potential. A tight-knit team is able to remain together through the highs and lows that are a staple of hockey.
The Vikings beat Cape Cod Canal, Nashoba and Quincy to advance to the state semifinals to face Wilmington. Four late unanswered goals would prove to be the difference in a 6-1 Triton win. Next up was Westwood: a team the Vikings were very familiar with.
Triton’s Brady Lindholm set the tone from the get-go, scoring the game’s first goal just 24 seconds into the first period. Westwood responded, though, and led 2-1 at the first intermission.
But the second period belonged to the Vikings, who exploded with four quick goals to pull away in the contest. Cael Kohan tied the game just 10 seconds before Ryan Lindholm scored two goals in just 39 seconds. Ben Rennick would also get in on the second period action, scoring a goal to put his team on top 5-2 heading into the season’s final period.
Triton’s feeling of euphoria with a late three-goal lead in the state championship game was almost immediately replaced with panic as Westwood roared back to score two late goals. Just like that, Triton’s lead was just one with 3:42 remaining.
Vast offensive production quickly transitioned to overwhelming defensive play by Kohan’s team. The Vikings would go on to withstand Westwood’s final attack behind strong team defense and great goal tending by Jackson Irving.
“It was nice for the kids to win a close game like that, but it was more emotional of a game than it probably should have been,” Kohan said. “It was a long weekend. The tournament itself went from Friday to Sunday and we played five games in three days so the kids were very spent emotionally and physically. They are still pretty high from the win right now.”
While Triton is now the best Squirt AAA hockey team in Massachusetts, they’re also ranked nationally at number 140 of over 600 teams.
As if that wasn’t enough, all 13 players from the team will be returning to the program next year – something that Kohan credits to the fun the kids had this season.
“At the end of the year, there are always questions about who’s coming back and who’s leaving,” he said. “But I know for a fact that all the kids from this year are returning next year, which is great. It goes to show that both them and their parents had an amazing year with the program and are excited to come back for more.”
The Triton Squirt hockey team includes: Cam Murray, Cam Tinkham, Cole Daniels, Brady Lindholm, Cael Kohan, Jack Wile, Matt Egan, Ryan Lindholm, Trevor Quigley, Ben Rennick, Jackson Irving, Trever Sabatino, and James Tatro. The Vikings were coached by head coach Paul Kohan, and assistant coaches Ken Daniels, Jim Egan, Bruce Irving, Jon Lindholm and team manager Steve Tatro.