By Dan Guttenplan
---- — HAVERHILL — Paul Yameen has never led the Newburyport hockey team to a Cape Ann League title, yet the 10th-year coach isn’t about to celebrate the fact that his team is the lone remaining unbeaten team in the league.
Yameen’s Clippers (3-1-2 overall, 3-0-1 CAL) continued to cruise through their CAL schedule last evening with a 3-1 victory over Pentucket (3-3-1, 1-2-0) at Haverhill’s Veterans Memorial Rink. Tyler Cusack, Travis Wile and Jayson Dylingowski scored the Newburyport goals. Nick Mombello, Ben Ventura, Connor Wile and Sean Hickman, who made his debut after serving a five-game suspension, had the Newburyport assists.
Pentucket’s Zach Graham made the game closer than Newburyport would have liked at 11:21 in the third period when he scored on a power play to make it 2-1. Less than two minutes later, Dylingowski scored on his own rebound to close out the 3-1 win.
Yameen credited Pentucket for “mucking up the game,” but did not express satisfaction in his own team’s play.
“We need to learn to play every game with the same intensity,” Yameen said. “I don’t think we did that. Give credit to Pentucket.”
Yameen has never been one to put much stock in CAL titles, as his coaching philosophy is to schedule difficult nonleague games in hopes that his team is peaking for the state tournament in February and March. That philosophy proved sound when the Clippers won a state title in 2009 and returned to the championship game in 2010.
Yameen’s mild interest in capturing his first CAL title appeared to lose even more steam over the last two seasons, when Wilmington and North Andover disbanded from the league to join larger, more competitive conferences. Yameen and Triton coach Drew Wile petitioned CAL athletic directors prior to this season in hopes of gaining independence as Division 1 teams, but that request was denied due to the lack of teams that would remain in what is already only a seven-team conference.
As a result, Newburyport’s biggest games this season will come against nonleague foes. The Clippers have already played well against two Division 1 teams — Braintree and Springfield Cathedral — in the early part of this season, and they have a 4-1 victory over reigning CAL champion Triton to their record. However, they have not played well against weaker CAL foes like Masconomet (1-4-1, 0-2-1) and Pentucket. They tied Masconomet in December, and nearly gave a point to Pentucket last evening.
“I don’t want to make excuses, really,” Yameen said. “We try to pound into their heads the mental aspect of the game. We need to look at each and every team like a challenge. We did too much standing around, and we’re not getting to the net with speed.”
For Pentucket’s part, senior goaltender Samantha Bomba continued to play the part of the league’s top goalie, making save after save to keep her team in the game. She finished with 28, 12 more than her counterpart, Newburyport’s Alex Buckley.
“Newburyport and Triton are the two teams that are strong in our division,” Pentucket coach Bill Burns said. “That’s a very good Newburyport team. We had opportunities, but we didn’t finish. They did, but we’ll learn and build on it.”
Goal-scoring may be one potential area of concern for Newburyport as it prepares for a late-season run in the state tournament. The team has scored 11 goals in its last five games, and appears to be missing last year’s top goal-scorer, Cam Roy, who tallied more than 100 career points in three seasons before joining the Bridgton Academy hockey team this winter. The Clippers will host two-time defending Division 2 South champion Franklin tomorrow in what figures to be another difficult nonleague test.
“We’re going to have to score ugly goals,” Yameen said. “If we got to the net quicker, we would have had five or six goals. We’re standing around, and not getting to the net with any speed. There were rebounds out there, we didn’t get to them, and it cost us. We’ll take the win, but if we don’t wake up quickly, we’ll give up six goals to Franklin.”