Matt Pouliot scored with 12.4 seconds left in triple overtime to lift the Martha’s Vineyard Mariners Bantams to a 2-1 victory over the Nantucket Nor’easters in the Southern New England Hockey Conference (SNEHC) Wales Division final, Sunday afternoon at Thayer Arena in Warwick, R.I.
The winning goal came about after Vineyard defenseman Nicholas Rego battled with a Nor’easter to tie up the puck behind the Nantucket net. Jake Scott, positioned in front of the cage, saw the puck pop loose, darted behind the net, and held off a Nor’easter just long enough to feed Pouliot, who buried the puck in the twine from the open slot.
The Mariners and Nor’easters skated to a pair of 1-1 ties during the regular season, and Sunday’s final played out the same way. Scott, the team’s fastest player, put the Mariners on top early in the second period after skating through several Nantucket players and firing a low, hard shot into the back of the net. The Nor’easters struck back in short order with a power-play goal, and the game remained tied at 1-1 after regulation and two five-minute periods of sudden-death overtime. Vineyard goalie Oliver Lively and his Nantucket counterpart made several key saves to keep the game deadlocked. The teams skated five on five during the first extra period, then four on four in the second, and finally, three on three in the decisive third overtime.
The six-period marathon capped off an epic day of hockey that began with a 5:30 am wake-up call (more like 4:30, given the start of daylight savings time just 2.5 hours before) and a 7 am face-off against Yarmouth-Dennis in the semifinal. The Mariners and Dolphins were to have played last weekend in Attleboro, but the game was moved ahead due to weather.
MV recorded two wins and a tie against the Dolphins during the regular season, and added a 3-1 win in the semifinal on Sunday morning. Jake Scott, Finn Lewis, and Matt Pouliot lit the lamp for MV, while Jack Lionette, Charlie Lakis, and Sam Hoyt picked up assists. “That was a complete team effort,” wrote Bantam Wales Head Coach Geoghan Coogan in an email to The Times.
The Mariner Bantams are composed of seventh, eighth, and ninth graders, may of whom have played together since they were 5 to 6 years old. The team started the season in September, and practiced in Falmouth until renovations on the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena were completed. “They had no problem lugging their gear over to Falmouth, playing for just an hour, and then heading back to the Island,” Coach Coogan said.
The Mariners got off to a hot start, and were undefeated in league play before competing in a tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., in November, which would be a pivotal point in their season. “We started that Lake Placid tournament against a select team from New Hampshire and won,” Coach Coogan said. “The next game, we played a high-level team from Masconomet and won, so we were riding high and expecting to make the gold medal game. We had a third game against a team consisting of 100 percent ninth graders from Ridgefield, Conn. They beat us up physically and on the scoresheet. We ended up losing that game and the bronze medal game, but we learned from that, got our egos in check, and got back to work.”
The lessons learned in Lake Placid spurred the Mariners on to a 25-4-3 record and a league championship. Following the big wins on Sunday in Rhode Island, an exhausted group of Mariners boarded the ferry and headed back to the Vineyard. Their accomplishment was still sinking in. “They said they didn’t know how they felt at that moment, because it was so exciting in the moment and now they were just relaxed,” Coach Coogan said. “My answer was, ‘You feel content, and that’s how it feels. When you have a season record of 25-4-3 and you end the season with a playoff championship in that fashion, you just feel content.'”
Martha’s Vineyard Mariners Bantam Wales roster: Richard Combra III, John Coogan, Cam Geary, Elias Gundersen, Sam Hoyt, Charlie Lakis, Finn Lewis, Jack Lionette, Oliver Lively, Matthew Pouliot, Nicholas Rego, Jacob Scott, Daniel Serpa, Graham Stearns, Michael Wallace.
Head Coach: Geoghan Coogan; Assistant Coaches: Jack McGroarty, Jevon Rego, and Dan Townes.