Scoring goals was never a problem for the Amesbury hockey team this year. The Red Hawks averaged 3.5 per game during the regular season, then potted 11 over the course of their first two playoff wins in the Division 4 state tournament.
But one way to slow any team down is to make it travel seven hours for a game on the same day.
Such was the case on Thursday, when No. 19 Amesbury had to leave at 10 a.m. to make it down to the Cape, then wait to take an hour-long ferry — followed by a half-mile walk to catch a bus for another half-hour ride to the rink — to play No. 6 Nantucket in the state quarterfinals. As it turns out, all of that travel was tough to overcome, as the Red Hawks couldn’t find their skating legs, only mustered 20 shots on net and saw their season come to and end via a 2-0 loss to the Whalers.
“We just couldn’t get over that seven-hour travel,” said Amesbury coach Steve Costa.
“In their minds, the kids started playing that game at 10 a.m. in the morning. But that’s part of the tournament. We had a couple of chances, but our kids just couldn’t find their skating legs. We didn’t get enough pucks to the net and enough bodies in front of the goalie, and not winning those races to the puck is what cost us.”
Nantucket (16-6-0) took a 1-0 lead with a goal in the second period, then sealed it with eight seconds left in the game on an empty-netter. Forwards Hunter Belisle, Brady Burnham, Joey Duggan, Bodie Marcotte and Matt Venturi tried their best to shake off the travel rust, but could only generate 20 shots on the Nantucket net.
And it’s not like the Whalers were skating circles around Amesbury either.
Red Hawk goalie Tyler Bartniski only saw 20 shots himself and let up just the one goal, which came on some poor puck luck after it awkwardly bounced out of the corner right to the stick of a Nantucket forward.
“To me, we were in the mix with everyone in the division,” said Costa. “It wasn’t a bad game by us, but it wasn’t the caliber of game we wanted to play. The kids are disappointed, but they have nothing to be disappointed about. We had a great season.”
Indeed, Amesbury’s (11-11-0) memorable year ends as co-CAL Baker champions, with the CAL Baker MVP in Belisle and with a run to the Division 4 Elite Eight. Their will be some elite senior talent and leadership lost with Beslie, Bartniski, Kaden Bedard, Brady Burnham, Trey Marcotte and Cam Richard all graduating, but the Red Hawks were still a young team this winter that will be back hungry next year.
“Right out of the gate this year we were 6-2, but then we had COVID and the flu go through the locker room like wildfire for a few week,” said Costa. “But we weathered that, and everyone got healthy and we started to gel. You have to learn to lose before you learn to win, so at the end of the season I thought we made big strides.”
Nantucket 2, Amesbury 0
Amesbury (11-11-0): 0 0 0 — 0
Nantucket (16-6-0): 0 1 1 — 2
Division 4 Quarterfinals
Saves: Tyler Bartniski 18
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