By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — In what has become the equivalent of World War III in the River Rival Region, the Newburyport/Triton hockey rivalry commences once again at the Graf Rink Saturday afternoon. The coaches, Newburyport’s Paul Yameen and Triton’s Drew Wile, are hoping fans will join them for a little dinner and dancing after all the body checks have been thrown.
“Rivals don’t usually do this,” said Wile. “But because Paul and I have such a good friendship, because we have such respect for each other, we need this for our programs. Our programs deserve this, and it’s just time to do a little renovation.”
That renovation, an expansion to the Graf that would add two more state-of-the-art locker rooms in an expansion to the back of the rink as well as free up space in the current dressing areas, will come to the area at the price of an estimated $200,000. So to that end, the Friends of Newburyport Hockey will be co-hosting a fundraiser with their Triton counterparts at the Elks Lodge directly after the game, and across the street from the rink to raise funds.
The evening will consist of dinner, dancing and a silent auction for over $15.000 worth of auction items donated by area hockey fans. Live Irish music will be provided by The Old Brigade.
“It’s just the community coming together,” said Wile. “Yeah, there will be some old rivals there, talking to each other. Guys that are running the youth programs now are all coming together because they have sons that are playing for the Newburyport and Triton hockey programs. They are coming together now because they know this will make those programs so much better. These programs, I think it is safe to say, are the class of the North Shore.”
As the top two teams in the Cape Ann League, the Clippers (5-1-4 overall, 5-0-1 CAL) and Vikes (8-2-0 overall, 5-1-0 CAL) are looking for a home better suited not just for them, but for the 21st century. Both of these Division 2 teams are also looking to move up in the world as well by going to Division 1 in the next few years.
“The Newburyport and Triton programs are looking to expand in more than one way,” says Wile. “We are expanding with this construction project, and then we also want to expand our own program by moving up to Division 1. We want to be able to tell the kids in our youth programs that they will have a shot to play in the Super 8.”
Last year’s Port/Triton tilts were standing-room-only epics that both ended in 3-3 ties. Their last meeting just three weeks ago did not go as smoothly for the Vikings as they were taken down by Newburyport 4-1. But since then, Triton has gone 4-0 against good competition, and Wile knows what is at stake.
“Unlike other teams that play Newburyport,” says Wile, “we’re not looking for a moral victory. We’re looking for two points. If they win, they control the league. If we win, we are a point up on them. At stake is first place. But what is really at stake is where you sit in the echelon of teams. We’re only halfway through the season, but we are both up in the upper echelons of Division 2. These are the kind of games that Paul and I are dying to play.”
Newburyport has also gone undefeated since encountering Triton in December, and the only blemish on its record comes against No. 1 ranked Springfield Cathedral. After posting a 0-0 tie against Beverly (9-0-1 overall) on Tuesday night, the Clippers will be looking to keep on rolling.
“It’s a huge game,” said Yameen. “You’ve got the CAL title (on the line). Both teams have separated themselves from the rest of the league. We beat them obviously the first time. We have a tie in the league, and they do not. If they beat us, they’ll be in first place. Besides the rivalry, there is a lot on the line. So, I don’t think there is any more motivation (than that).”
Tickets for the dinner are $50 and will be available at both the Graf Rink and the Elks Lodge.