By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT -- The long dormant Newburyport/Amesbury hockey rivalry woke up at the Graf rink Saturday night thanks to a reborn Indians squad (6-4 overall, 3-3 CAL) but the current CAL-leading Clippers (5-1-3 overall, 5-0-1 in the CAL) sent the Amesbury fans a reminder things might not be that easy in the second half of the season, skating away with the win, 3-1.
Clippers coach Paul Yameen was happy with the win, but not with his team’s play.
“Give credit to Amesbury,” said Yameen. “I thought they played very well. That’s a good team. But I don’t think we had our A-game tonight. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not a very good team right now. But we’ll take the two points.”
Both teams hit the ice with amped-up fans on both sides, recalling the games of the last decade. The Amesbury fans were outnumbered 2 to 1 but twice as boisterous at the start, as the Indians ripped off a shot on Clippers goalie Alex Buckley in the first 30 seconds. The Indians played with fire in their souls as Newburyport came out clumsy, attempting to heat up along the way by taking eight shots on the Indians’ Evan King, but the proceedings remained scoreless into the first intermission.
The second period started out all Amesbury, taking five shots to Newburyport’s one. But Buckley was having none of it and carried his offense until they began chipping away at King, who himself was in no mood, eventually stopping 13 to Buckley’s six.
With the game scoreless as the final period began, Newburyport came out hot, scoring in the first minute as Nate Hickman flipped the puck directly in front of King to find Travis Wile waiting. Wile buried deep past King’s left side, also assisted by older brother Connor to break the stalemate before the Indians could take a shot.
Five minutes later, the Clippers would score again, courtesy of a wraparound goal from AJ Williams, assisted by hotshot youngster Tyler Therrien.
Amesbury got on the board with just five minutes left when JT Chamberlain flipped the rubber biscuit past Buckley’s left hand, assisted by Anthony Licciardello to give the now-deafening Newburyport faithful cause to sweat. That would be it for Amesbury, who put up a spirited fight for the last five minutes and as King vacated the net for the last 60 seconds, Hickman scored an empty netter to make the final score wider that it really was.
But the Indians’ point had been made. The rivalry was back on.
“I thought our kids worked from start to finish,” said Indians coach Chris Kuchar. “We could have played a better hockey game. We had a couple of breakdowns in the third and ultimately that cost us. I like our resiliency. I like our ability to keep fighting back. That’s the type of hockey team we are.”
“Regardless of who we play, we’re going to come out and play hard,” continued Kuchar. “That’s the way we come in to play every game. These kids have bought into the system. They’re working hard. They are a young team, and they’re only going to get better. They’re upset with the loss, for sure. But they are going to come to work and hopefully we give Newburyport a better game next time.”
Now looking at a tilt against undefeated Beverly (9-0) this week, Yameen remained terse and concerned about his team.
“We’ve got Beverly on Tuesday,” Yameen said. “If we play like we did, they’re going to kill us.”