, Newburyport, MA

January 27, 2014

Amesbury downs Triton, on track for tourney

By Jim Sullivan

---- — With a pair of goals provided courtesy of Connor Stevens, the Amesbury hockey team broke this season’s stalemate with Triton at the Haverhill Valley Forum Saturday night, shutting out the Vikings 2-0.

“Anytime you can get a league win in this tough league, it’s big,” said Indians coach Chris Kuchar. “Triton is a team that we have always battled and anytime you can get a win in this league which is wide open, it is definitely a positive.”

After skating to a 2-2 tie with Amesbury to start the season in December, Triton (3-8-2, 2-4-2 in the CAL) had a chance to catch the Indians (7-3-2, 4-3-1 in the CAL) in the league standings Saturday night; but as it has happened so many times this season, the puck just didn’t bounce the Vikings’ way.

“Anyone who has watched us from day one when we opened up (against Amesbury) can see, the story of the season offensively is we have struggled to hit the mark,” said Vikings coach Drew Wile. “We are struggling to put the puck in the back of the net.”

Triton started the night on the attack, peppering Amesbury goalie Jake Harlow with three shots in just under four minutes. But Amesbury began turning the tide soon after, scoring just under halfway into the first period when Stevens grabbed ahold of a rebound and dumped it in past Triton goalie Devon Shuman’s right skate, assisted by Tabor Smith and JT Chamberlain.

“Connor has been great,” Kuchar said of Stevens, who is one of only three seniors on the Amesbury squad. “He came back from junior hockey and he has some explosive speed, he can get to the net. Tonight he worked well with JT and Tabor, and right now he is leading us in goals (with seven), so having him back has been a huge addition for us.”

The Indians kept giving Shuman a run for his money for the rest of the first period until the senior’s concentration broke again at the halfway point of the second when the dynamic duo of Stevens and Smith struck yet again. Stevens was also assisted, this time by Zach Fitzgerald.

“We told our kids, the second half of our season starts now because we start to go through the league a second time,” said Kuchar. “This is a good way to start our second time through.”

Neither team mustered much other than penalties in the third period (2 for Amesbury, 1 for Triton) and the Amesbury machine kept moving toward its first state tournament berth under fourth-year coach Kuchar.

“This is going to sound like a cliché, but I’ve been here before,” said Kuchar, whose team only needs six more points in the next eight games to make the tournament. “Last year we had 16 points with four games to go, and we didn’t get it done. So we are not taking anything for granted. We are a long way from being a tournament team, and there are a lot of things that we need to do to be a tournament team.”

On the other side of the coin this season is Triton, a team with only three wins and six points so far. The Vikings must win six of their last eight games to see postseason play.

“They had the better of the opportunities in terms of scoring chances tonight,” Wile said of his team. “I think we outshot them by a pretty a big margin as far as quality chances go, but it was hard to get a flow. Give them credit. Their guys scored, and we didn’t.”