Framingham overpowers Vineyard icemen

Vineyard goaltender Wyatt Jenkinson does the splits to thwart the visitors. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard boys hockey team went to school Saturday night at the MV Ice Arena, courtesy of the Division 1 Framingham Flyers, who applied a 6-2 lesson to the Division 2 Vineyarders.

The game was touted as a litmus test for the high-flying Vineyarders, off to an 8-1-1 start with victories over D2 teams, including Dover, New Hampshire, ranked 10th among all Granite State teams in the latest New England Hockey Journal poll. Against D1 teams, the Vineyarders defeated St. Thomas of N.H., 5-3, and lost, 4-3, to Bridgewater-Raynham on a last-minute power play goal. Framingham entered Saturday’s tilt at 7-7, playing a rigorous Bay State League schedule and against perennial state Super-8 teams such as Catholic Memorial and B.C. High. Framingham defeated CM 2-1 earlier in the week.

The Purple (now 8-2-1) started fast with a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the first period on a power-play goal by senior captain Brian Fraser on a nice feed from Tyson Araujo. Framingham answered quickly on a tap-in by an undefended winger stationed at the left side of the net, an assignment that tentative Vineyard defenders found difficult to master on Saturday. Framingham scored again with 3:10 left in the first on another unmolested tap-in to take a 2-1 lead to the dressing room.

Five of Framingham’s six goals were scored within a few feet of netminder Wyatt Jenkinson’s crease, courtesy of uncovered Flyers or pucks pushed in from a Framingham-packed scrum in front of the net.

Coach Matt Mincone knew what was coming. “They are 15th in the state. I scheduled this game because I wanted to see how we would do and have a game against that kind of talent,” he said. “We are young. I’m not saying we were schooled, but we were outplayed. They are a veteran team, rugged and fast, and they capitalized on even little mistakes.

“This was a good game for us. I probably wouldn’t be saying that if the score was 10-2. But our kids didn’t give up. They played to the whistle. We looked at game film today [Monday] for a couple of hours. We can use that knowledge; it’s valuable going into the tourney where we’re likely to get a Division 2 team like Framingham.”

For their part, Framingham learned early that if Wyatt saw it, he stopped it, including a highlight reel stoning of a first period penalty shot and five other full or partial breakaways. While Framingham only outshot the Vineyarders 27-23, the margin of high-quality shots clearly favored the aggressive, oft-penalized Metrowesters who routinely sent two men into the offensive zone while shorthanded and outshot the Vineyarders 21-12 over the final two periods. Wyatt’s play kept the Purple in the game.

Brian Fraser scored both Vineyard goals, his 13th and 14th of the season, the second coming at 8:16 of the second period, giving the Vineyarders a short-lived 2-2 tie. Brian took a feed from Emerson Mahoney on a play begun by Nick Kent and burst through the middle across the Flyer blue line to beat keeper Dylan Nichols with a 15-foot snap shot to the top left corner.

Disciplined hockey teams play the game strategically, sharing some aspects with chess, except, of course, that in hockey all the pieces are armed, move constantly at high speed  and collide frequently with attitude.

The Vineyard squad is young (only three seniors), fast, and nifty. They have been successful this season with a disciplined, crisp, intermediate passing game that has created chances worth 53 goals coming into Saturday night.

Framingham plays nine seniors experienced in their system: take the body every time, own the boards and corners and dominate the front of the net. The Flyers grind, having scored nearly 20 fewer goals than the Purple. On Saturday night, they shadowed top Vineyarder scorer Tyson Araujo, who wore a defender on every shift, limiting the 15-goal scorer’s quality shots.

Midway through the second period, the contrasting systems were working for each team, although Framingham was dominating play. The Flyer game plan, an inexorable wearing down of the smaller Vineyard squad, began to take a toll. Framingham was content to provide some space in the middle neutral zone then clamped down as the Vineyarders crossed their blue line.

The balancing act vaporized in the middle of the second period when the Flyers struck three times in less than five minutes, mucking in the corners, then finding open men in front and jamming the Vineyarder crease.  Framingham played in a defensive mode in the third period, adding a goal off an opportunity created by the attacking Vineyarders.

While Saturday night wasn’t pretty, it was a look at the clamp-down, bumptious style of tournament play with under four weeks and nine games left to sort it out. The Vineyarders and Eastern Athletic Conference rival Coyle Cassidy will battle for first place on Island ice at 4:30 pm on Wednesday.