At the start of the season, Saturday’s matchup between the Vineyarders boys’ hockey team and Coyle-Cassidy had all the earmarks of a classic, a late season battle between two old rivals with possible postseason implications for one, or possibly both, of the perennial strong teams.
But after a disappointing 4-11-1 start to the season, Saturday’s game against Coyle may have lost some of its luster for some Vineyard hockey fans. And after losing to Bishop Feehan the previous night, the Vineyarders were officially eliminated from the state tournament before the puck was even dropped on Saturday.
This meant that technically speaking there was nothing on the line against Coyle.
But this meant nothing to the Vineyarders, because after years of close games and sometimes bad blood with Coyle, every game between these two teams is an all-out war, and Saturday’s game at the MV Arena was no exception.
As rivals in the Eastern Athletic Conference these two teams know each other well.
They play each other twice a year; and last played on Jan. 22 when the Warriors won by a score of 4-3. They have also met in the state tourney three times over the past five years, with the Warriors winning each time by close margins
So despite the sub-par season for the Vineyarders, there was no lack of intensity against Coyle on Saturday. Although they lost 6-3, the game was closer than the final scored indicated, and the Vineyarders stayed in the contest right up until the last minutes.
The Vineyarders took an early 1-0 lead on a crisp slap shot from the left-wing by junior captain Colby Gouldrup with five minutes left in the period. Nelson Dickson was credited with an assist.
It was the Vineyarders only lead of the game and it held until the 11:47 mark of the second period. After goalie Mike Sylvia stopped a series of shots by the Warriors, the puck hovered precariously in the crease before the Warriors’ Alex Travers slapped it between the pipes.
Connor Matthews and P.J. McCann were each awarded with an assist.
The Warriors took their first lead late in the period when Mike Jessman scored with assists from Travers and Matthews. The goal began an exciting but confusing sequence of events to close out the second period, and the Vineyarders were called for two costly penalties during a three minute-span.
The Vineyarders tied the game at 2-2 on a goal by Chuck Goldthwait with an assist to Shay Hill with just over two minutes left in the period. The home crowd exploded, but their joy was short-lived. Just seconds later, Vineyarders junior captain Tyler Araujo was called for interfering.
The Warriors took advantage right away, scoring nine seconds into the power play on a goal from Kevin Sealy to take a 3-2 lead. After some jawing from the bench, one of the referees called Vineyarders’ assistant coach Max Sherman for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Freshman defense man Andrew Carroll was chosen to serve the penalty for the Vineyarders, and the Warriors again went on the power play, capitalizing again on an unassisted goal by Brian Jones with 30 seconds left in the period to give the Warriors a 4-2 advantage at the end of the second period.
The Warriors would add to their lead just seconds into the third period, when Kevin Sealy scored on an assist from Frank Cambria to give his team a 5-2 lead. The referees then called the Vineyarders for another penalty, drawing the ire of the home crowd, who voiced their displeasure from the stands.
Trailing by three goals, it would have been easy for the Vineyarders to give up, but they continued to battle, and climbed back to 5-3 on a goal by Dickson with just under three minutes to play. Goldthwait was credited with an assist.
The Vineyarders had some great chances to cut the lead to a single goal or perhaps tie the game in the final minutes, thanks to a series of Warriors penalties that gave the home team an extended power play that spanned over the last three minutes.
At one point the Vineyarders took a 5-3 player advantage, and then a rare 6-3 advantage after Coach Mincone pulled the goalie, but they could never get any closer.
After the final buzzer, one fan tried to find a silver lining to the tough loss and the frustrating season.
“At least we don’t have to play [Coyle-Cassidy] in the tournament,” he said optimistically.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Feb. 21, 2011:
The print version of this story reported that the unsportsmanlike penalty was called on coach Matt Mincone, a police officer. Mr. Mincone was called away to assist on a police matter in West Tisbury and was not in the building. The foul was called on assistant coach Max Sherman.