Vineyard girls beat Nauset 3-2 in Saturday night home opener

The depleted high school varsity team rose to the challenge when called upon to defend its home turf.

The Vineyard players skate into a group hug after the buzzer. — Photo by Sam Moore

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls varsity ice hockey team beat The Cape Cod Furies of Nauset Regional High School by a score of  3-2 Saturday night at the MV Ice Arena to win their home opener and improve to 1-2 on the season.

The Vineyarders took a 2-0 first period lead on power-play goals by Natalija Lakis and Kylie Hatt but needed a third period game-winning score by Julia Levesque to break a 2-2 tie for the victory in a scrappy contest.

Belle Dinning, Meghan Sonia and Meg Burke had Vineyarder assists. Jackie Hegarty faced 18 shots from the Furies (0-3) in the win.

Sophomore Blue Fancy scored both Nauset goals, their first scores of the season, and diminutive freshman goalkeeper Molly McKenna was huge in the Furies net, facing 30 Islander shots.

The Nauset Regional High School’s roster is young, peppered with freshman and sophomores. The well-coached program is strong on basics (sticks on the ice, positional play) and is in its fourth season, drawing students from Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown. Nauset also offers an open enrollment program for students located in the towns of Dennis, Harwich and Chatham.

Sickness and injuries limited the 0-2 Vineyarders on Saturday night with only 10 skaters for the game along with goaltenders Jackie Hegarty, Julia Bettencourt and Jamilyn Joseph. Fatigue was a factor in a grinder, particularly when the Vineyarders went into the second period clinging to a 2-1 lead.

Nauset’s clogging physical style (four tripping/hooking penalties) challenged the Vineyarder game. Neither team broke through in the scoreless second period despite rink-length rushes from Belle Dinning, Kylie Hatt and Hailey Meader that provided opportunities on the offensive end.

At the other end, Ms. Blue, a skilled and dynamic player, provided several in-close Furies opportunities that were thwarted by Ms. Hegarty and friends in front of the net.

Ms. Blue wasted no time in the third period, tucking the tying goal inside the far post just 35 seconds into the frame. The Vineyarders responded 31 seconds later with Julia Levesque’s game-winner on a nice feed from Meg Burke with 13:54 left.

The remainder of the game was a grinder as both teams defended while looking for chances. Ms. Hegarty had several great stops including stoning a Furies’ shooter on a third period partial breakaway .

The Vineyarders also had a successful penalty kill midway through the third period when Belle Dinning got a retaliatory roughing penalty. “Belle has had enough,” one bleacher fan commented, in reference to the Furies’ physical play.

“That was a huge win for us, a real character win,” head coach John Fiorito said on Sunday.

“We are real thin. Three kids are injured and one left the team for another pursuit,” he said. “You could really see it in the second period, we were getting worn down, nursing that one goal lead. After they tied it in the third, it was a tremendous feeling to see our response. Very good for the kids.”

“Wins are not going to come easy this year so I’m happy about this win for the kids who’ve been around the program for awhile,” he said of the program, which has qualified for the state tournament for four consecutive years.

“The league is interesting this year. There are four dominant teams: Pembroke, Marshfield, Plymouth and Dennis-Yarmouth, and four other teams we can compete with,” he said. “We lost 90 percent of our offense from last year. Difficult to replace that scoring. We have two good freshman players in Hailey Meader and Meghan Sonia and 33 kids in the JV program so the future looks pretty good.”