By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Hockey is a breeding ground for grudges.
Now that the Triton and Amesbury hockey teams have successfully reignited their rivalry with Newburyport, both squads turned on each other at the Graf Rink Saturday afternoon for their final tilt of the season. The Vikings won the day behind a physical performance, 3-2.
“We have so much to improve on,” said Triton coach Drew Wile. “The upside of this team is so good. It can be so good. We didn’t beat them. They played hard and they were in there.”
Triton (9-4-0 overall, 7-2-0 CAL) was more physical than Amesbury (6-7-1 overall, 3-5-0 CAL) from the moment the puck hit the ice, but the Indians showed they could roll with the punches, firing off three shots to Triton’s one in the first four minutes. But the Vikes demonstrated they could bury when Jack Norton scored on Amesbury goalie Evan King before the first five minutes were up, assisted by Jake Wood.
Triton would kill a total of six penalty minutes during the rest of the first period to escape with the 1-0 tie.
Amesbury came out for the second period with more fire in their bellies and would find the chink in Triton goalie Devon Shuman’s armor five minutes in thanks to a breakaway goal from Anthony Licciardello, who charged in from the blue line, unassisted, to knot things at one.
A minute later, Indian Andrew Reilly was called on a penalty for cross checking, allowing Kyle Hillick to score on a tip from the blue line, assisted by his co-captains Derek Donley and Jared Salmon.
With his team leading 2-1, Salmon found himself at the blue line next and tipped the puck to Norton, who brushed it past King for the Vikes’ third goal of the day.
Triton’s Tucker Johnson was shown the penalty box with a minute to go for boarding Andy Reidy, allowing the Indians to gain a point back thanks to a top shelf goal from Jake Cross, assisted by Licciardello and Tabor Smith to put things where they were at the end of the first period.
Triton’s Zack D’Agostino started the third period off in the penalty box on a cross-checking call, but the Vikes killed and both teams played well enough in the defense department that the song would remain up until the end.
Amesbury coach Chris Kuchar said he would not have been content with a tie and a point in the standings.
“We’re not happy to hold somebody just to one,” said Kuchar. “We didn’t play well enough to win. We didn’t show any urgency in the offensive end. We didn’t get to the puck. We didn’t play physical enough. We gave up a power-play goal. We gave up a goal after a face-off. We gave up two goals on shots on the points because we didn’t sacrifice ourselves and get to the lane. Holding anybody to one just doesn’t mean much. We’ve got our backs up against the wall now.”
“I thought we had our way when we wanted to have our way, just not consistent,” said Wile, citing a season-long problem. “We won the third (though), we didn’t survive it, we won it. But it’s a good rebound win here. It’s a league game. And it’s all about getting two points right now and improving our seeding.”
With his team falling below .500 or the first time this season heading down the stretch, Kuchar isn’t looking for any grand bargains
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Kuchar. “We’ve got to keep with our shifts and keep with the process. That worked enough for us to get six wins, and hopefully it will get us to four more. We can’t begin to reinvent the wheel or give up on what we’ve been doing.”