The Vineyard boys varsity hockey team picked up a win they had to have over 1-10 Cardinal Spellman of Brockton, Saturday night at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena. Sophomore Colby Zarba scored a goal to go with three assists, and Hunter Ponte tallied twice in a 5-2 win.
It’s mathematically possible for the Vineyarders (3-10) to score a postseason berth, but they have to win all seven remaining games to pull off the feat. “We’re still alive, but we’ve got to win out,” Vineyard Coach Matt Mincone said with a grin regarding his team’s playoff chances. As for the victory over the Cardinals, “a win is a win,” he said. “They deserve it. We’ve been working hard in practice. It wasn’t played beautifully. There were a few minutes we took off, and there were some coverage issues, but we won.”
The Cardinals struck first on Griffin Cournan’s breakaway goal 2:06 into the game. Vineyarder Willson Slayton tied the score at 7:28 during a stretch of four-on-four play, following up Colby Zarba’s initial shot and sneaking the puck inside the right post from behind the net.
The first period ended tied at 1-1, and Coach Mincone made a game-changing adjustment by pairing Jacob Gundersen with Zarba and Hunter Ponte. “I think what changed the game was switching the lines, putting Gundersen with Zarba and Ponte,” Mr. Mincone said, “They were all moving pretty well, and helped us moving forward getting some offense. I’ve been running four lines for the most part. It’s just more of an experience thing, because there’s a lot of parity between the first and fourth lines; I should say color lines: red, green, gold, and blue. I don’t really have a first, but I made a first line [tonight] for the second and third periods.”
The change was hard to ignore as the group, with help from Willson Slayton and Nick Bischoff, accounted for the four Vineyard goals to come.
The Vineyarders opened up a 3-1 lead in the second period by aiming high on Spellman goalie Zachary Richards. Jacob Gundersen lit the lamp on the power play at 3:52 with a sizzling wrister just under the crossbar, and Hunter Ponte scored two minutes later with a slapper from the point that skimmed off the crossbar. Willson Slayton assisted on the second goal, Colby Zarba and Nick Bischoff on the third. “They found his [Richard’s] weakness early,” Coach Mincone said. “You see awareness starting to happen. Shooting high, that was something that they saw. I always tell them to shoot low and try to get a rebound. Once they saw it, they were talking about it on the bench. They figured that out. That’s a break.”
Spellman’s James Walsh scored from Anthony Nardelli 6:04 into the third period to cut the Vineyard lead to 3-2, but the hosts restored their two-goal cushion 28 seconds later, and needed just 39 extra ticks to add some insurance. Hunter Ponte converted a Colby Zarba feed with a wrister into the top right corner for the fourth Vineyard goal at 6:32, and Zarba capped off his four-point night with a breakaway goal, assisted by Jacob Gundersen, at 7:11.
Mr. Zarba’s total effort earned him player of the game honors. “He’s been playing well,” Coach Mincone said. “He was all over the puck, so I played the heck out of him tonight. He’s going to get points when he’s playing like that. His last five games, he’s been a different player. You see it starting to happen. He scored goals last year. Just to get his feet going, it pushes the other players to get moving too. Sometimes it takes one guy to get things turned around for us. He’s been solid.”
MV outshot Spellman 23-16 on the night, and got strong work from goalie Mike Metcalf. “We’re scraping to win games, but when we get going, I think we can play with anyone,” said the coach. “We had some good, timely saves from Mike. That helps. Didn’t leave rebounds hanging around in front.”
The Vineyarders are off until Jan. 31 and a date with Eastern Athletic Conference archrival Coyle and Cassidy at the Raynham Iceplex.