By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT -- The top two hockey teams in the Cape Ann League, just miles down the road from each other and separated by only one point standings, met at the Graf rink for their last battle of the season Saturday afternoon. At stake was first place heading into the second half of the season and Newburyport (6-1-4 overall, 6-0-1 CAL) showed that they wanted it more than Triton (8-3-0 overall, 5-2-0 CAL) behind a strong defensive showing, 3-1.
“Defensively, we have given up 12 goals in 11 games, so I like the way our ‘D’ is playing,” said Clippers coach Paul Yameen. “We could still use a little more offense. But I think it’s going to come.”
Both teams hit the ice ready for the show as Triton fired off the first shot on Clipper’ goalie Alex Buckley in the first two minutes. But the Vikings’ limited success didn’t last for long when Newburyport’s hot shot youngster Tyler Therrien buried Port’s first shot of the day past Triton goalie Devon Shuman’s right side, assisted by Tim Brennan and Nick Federico with 11 minutes to go in the period.
Newburyport came out hot at the beginning of the second period, getting off a pair of unanswered shots in the first minute alone and weathering a penalty kill, allowing only one shot on Buckley during the man disadvantage. The intensity level dropped for both teams in the middle of the period until, with just under four minutes to go, Clipper Jayson Dylingowski scored up top on Shuman, assisted by Robbie Padellaro and Tyler Cusack to take to Clippers into the second intermission, up 2-0.
As they have shown all season, if the Vikings don’t show up for the first two periods, they will show up for the third like men possessed. But Newburyport has an exorcist on the pay roll named Buckley who stopped nine shots on his net, allowing his fellow senior co-captain Nick Mombello to score his team’s third goal of the day with a crossbar rebound, assisted by Dylingowski just three minutes in.
Newburyport’s Matty Kelleher was called for slashing with seven and a half to play and had served his time in the box, but hadn’t quite hit the ice when Donley scored a slap shot goal, top shelf, assisted by Jared Salmon with six minutes left to give the Vikes their only goal of the day.
“We knew they were going to come out there with some fire in their eyes, and I think we did a good job matching that at the beginning,” said Yameen. “It’s going to take a little time for (our first line) to gel (offensively) and we’re going to give them time. But if we keep playing well defensively, we’re going to be in all of our games.”
After the loss, Triton coach Drew Wile said his team needed better coaching Saturday.
“I hate losing, I’m the sorest loser going, I really am,” said Wile. “We’ve played them twice, we played Beverly, two teams that are better than us and we’re 0-3. A total of nine periods in those three games, we’ve played three periods. You just can’t win games against teams that are better than you playing only one period. But Newburyport goes harder. There’s just something that makes them go harder when we’ve played them. We’re paying the price when we play like this against good teams. We’re getting away with it with other teams.”
“With teams that are going to the tournament, as of right now we would be 3-3. That’s not good enough. That’s not going to make it,” continued Wile. “On the flip side, I’m so proud of my captains Salmon and Donley. If guys would just follow their lead, game night would be a lot easier.”