Vineyarders take to the ice

Boys and girls hockey teams start preseason with challenging scrimmages.

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With the first week of winter practice over, the MVRHS boys and girls hockey teams got the preseason underway with a busy weekend on the ice against tough competition.

The boys skated at home against Division 1 teams Lexington and Acton-Boxboro, along with Oyster River High School from Durham, N.H., while the girls played in a jamboree in Bourne and hosted a pair of scrimmages against Needham.

The boys faced off first, Friday night at the MV Arena, against the Lexington Minutemen. From the first drop of the puck, the Vineyarders played with an encouraging spring in their collective skates. Over three regulation 15-minute periods, Lexington outscored MV 3-0, but the hosts held their own, with two of the goals coming well into the final stanza.

The Vineyarders were even better on Saturday. In the matinee against Oyster River, Hunter Ponte tallied twice, while Jackson Pachico and Colby Zarba added a goal apiece as the Vineyarders skated past the Bobcats, 4-2. “We started to see some clicking with the offense,” Vineyard Head Coach Matt Mincone said. “They were going to the net, getting in the dirty spots, and that’s what’s important.”

MV closed out the busy 24-hour stretch by scoring three goals to Acton-Boxboro’s four, but the effort was solid. Vineyard freshman defenseman Charlie Lakis lit the lamp with a shot off the A-B goalie’s helmet, and fellow frosh Jake Scott added another first-period goal. In period two, Colin Henke broke in alone from center ice and fired a shot through the goalie’s wickets to complete the scoring.

It’s early yet, but Coach Mincone saw promising signs for a team trying to improve on a 5-14-1 record last season. “There was a progression each scrimmage, and that’s what I wanted to see,” he said.

Coach Mincone cited Colin Henke, Willson Slayton, and Hunter Meader as his best line of the weekend. “Big guys with speed,” the coach said. The line of Hunter Ponte, Pete Gillis, and Colby Zarba also played well. On the youthful third line, Coach Mincone matched sophomore Aiden Marek with freshmen Cam Geary and Jake Scott, who played together in youth hockey. Junior Logan Araujo also had ice time at center, and helped to kill penalties.

Seniors Ian Trance and Sean Hegarty, juniors Hoffie Hearn, Kenny Hatt, and Jackson Pachico, sophomore Eli Gundersen, along with freshmen Charlie Lakis and John Coogan, manned the defense over the weekend.

Starting goaltender Michael Metcalf, standing 6 feet, 5 inches, is a formidable presence between the pipes, and had a particularly strong showing against Lexington. Freshman Graham Stearns also shows promise in net.

“It was a good start. I think we went in the right direction, and I haven’t always said that after these three scrimmages,” Coach Mincone said.

Team chemistry is strong so far. “The kids are saying that they’ve gelled more than they have in a long time, and we’ve been together since Monday,” Coach Mincone said. “Personalities are unifying the team quickly, and we need that.”

Ian Trance and Hunter Ponte are the senior captains, and junior Colby Zarba is the assistant captain.

Matt Mincone is behind the Vineyard bench for his 21stt season. Geoghan Coogan is back for a second season as assistant coach, and Dayce Moore begins his third season as goaltenders’ coach.

This season, the Vineyarders will compete in a modified version of the Cape and Island League, alongside Nantucket, Cape Cod Tech, and Mashpee/Monomoy, following nine seasons in the Eastern Athletic Conference. Former EAC rival Bishop Stang remains on the schedule, and will play the Vineyarders twice.

“We’re going to fight for our points, we can’t take anyone lightly,” Coach Mincone said. “We’ve got to win our 10 games. We’ve got to get qualified this year and get back in the big [state] tournament. That’s our goal.”

The quest for that goal begins on Saturday in Attleboro. The home opener against Cape Tech is Dec. 13 at 4:30 pm.

The Vineyard girls started play on Saturday afternoon by splitting a pair of scrimmages as part of an annual jamboree at the Gallo Arena in Bourne. The event is played in support of Children’s Cove, a facility offering support to abused children from the Cape and Islands. Each Vineyard player made a $10 donation. MV played well but lost, 3-0, to the co-op team of Bourne-Mashpee-Wareham/Old Rochester Regional (BMW/ORR) before overwhelming a JV contingent from Barnstable High by double digits.

Saturday night at the MV Arena, the Vineyarders laced up the skates with Needham, a Division 1 powerhouse that played in the state final at the TD Bank Garden two years ago. Meghan Sonia scored in a strong Vineyard first period, but MV were squarely in the Rockets’ red glare the rest of the way. In the return scrimmage on Sunday, Hailey Meader snapped a wrister into the top right corner from the left circle, following deft passes from Lauren Boyd, and Sonia and Ava BenDavid. Needham, a team at a different level and the best team the Vineyarders will see this season, conceded nothing more.

The Vineyarders lost only three players to graduation, with nearly the entire lineup returning a year older and wiser. Meghan Sonia, Hailey Meader, and Sally Caron are senior co-captains. Sonia, Meader, and Veronica Wendt, the top three scorers last season, are the offensive nucleus. Caron, Lauren Boyd, and Ruby Reimann will lead the defense. Junior Megan Zeilinger will step in as a fourth defenseman. Junior netminder Amelia Simmons is markedly improved, and will tend the twine with capable support from sophomore Maria Frangos.

John Fiorito enters his ninth season as head coach. Andre Bonnell, Michelle Cacchiotti, and Nell Coogan are the assistant coaches.

“We’re OK, we’re obviously not deep, but we’re just more experienced than we were last year,” Coach Fiorito said. “If I play my top nine players, even against a team like Needham, we’ll hang in there. The puck will be in our zone a lot, we’re not going to generate a lot of offense, but we have enough talent to hang in there.”

The Vineyarders will compete with Barnstable, Bishop Stang, BMW/ORR, Hanover/Cohasset, Latin Academy/Fontbonne Academy and Norwell in the Southeast Massachusetts Girls Hockey League this season before moving to the Cape and Islands League for the 2019-20 season.

The regular season begins on Saturday at Brookline, and the home opener is Dec. 15 at 5 pm versus Sandwich.