Updated December 23, 12:30 pm
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity hockey team dropped its season home opener to Lowell Catholic High School in a physical grinder of a game Saturday night at the MV Ice Arena. The final score was 4-1.
The hard-hitting game featured 11 penalties, including four roughing minors. Lowell Catholic was also awarded a penalty shot, and scored. MVRHS goalkeeper Wyatt Jenkinson faced 22 shots in goal, compared with 13 Vineyarder shots on the Lowell Catholic net.
Nick Vukota gave the Vineyarders an early first-period lead on a heady feed from Joe Davies. Lowell Catholic, a top-ranked division three team, answered with three second-period goals, two of the offbeat variety, to take a 3-1 advantage into the third period. The Crusaders netted an empty-net goal in the final minute for the 4-1 win.
“I was happy with the first period,” Vineyard coach Matt Mincone said in postgame comments.
“We played well. Second period we played not so well, and we struggled a lot in the third.”
Certainly, after two positive games against Sandwich (a 3-2 loss) and Dennis-Yarmouth (a 5-2 win), and a strong period and a half Saturday, the Islanders know that they can play with veteran top-ranked D3 schools, and it is likely they learned in the second half of the Lowell Catholic game that attention to detail and staying in their system of play is critical to success this season.
The wheels began coming off midway through the second period after Lowell Catholic tied it 1-1 with a backhander in front of the net, followed quickly by scoring on a penalty shot, and adding a third goal on a bizarre, slow-motion play in which players from both teams landed atop goaltender Jenkinson and the mass moved inexorably across the goal line, presumably with the puck somewhere in the pile.
A murky call at best, but officials are human too, and the Saturday-night crew may have been suffering from off-season rust, as they engaged in lengthy consults before making decisions on several plays and penalties. One head-scratcher was a boarding call on Lowell Catholic late in the second period, transmuted by the refs into six infractions: boarding, retaliation, and four roughing minors, two per side.
In the refs’ defense, an already physical game was getting chippy, and handing out a few penalties generally restores order. The Vineyarders, down by two in the third, were not able to establish any flow or continuity against a savvy LCHS squad that played defensive hockey with a two-goal lead.
Coaches at every level of sports emphasize that developing team personality and a system of play is an accretive process. Certainly the 2014-’15 squad is a different group than the 2013-’14 bunch, which featured state scoring leader Tyson Araujo and sniper Brian Fraser. You could almost hear the theme from “Jaws” when Araujo et al. circled in the offensive zone.
“Fabricating offense is going to be a challenge this year,” Coach Mincone said. “We have to do the hard things, get in front of the net, support the rush in the offensive zone. Tonight, really, I saw a bunch of little errors, the result of inexperience, things we have to learn. We’re learning what we can and cannot do.
“This is a new team with a lot of new guys getting themselves acclimated. We have speed, and there is some grit here. We won’t be pretty. I told them after the game that there is no panic button, but there’s no easy button either. We have to fit the pieces together,” he said.
The Vineyarders are now 1-2 on the season and 1-1 in the Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC). The team travels to the University of New Hampshire for a three-day tournament next week, and resumes play at home against Bourne High School on Jan. 7 in a non-EAC matchup.