Ashland skates past Vineyard icemen in state tourney

Speedy Clockers give MV little time with the puck in 4-0 win.

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Aiden Marek, No. 19, takes a shot on the heavily defended Ashland goal. — John Zarba

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys hockey team returned to the MIAA state tournament after a three-season hiatus, but unfortunately for the Vineyarders and the Island faithful, their stay in the postseason was brief. Eighth-seeded MV ran into a big, powerful group of Clockers from Ashland High School, who played well beyond their ninth seeding, and beat the Vineyarders, 4-0, in the first round of the Division 3 South Sectional on Thursday afternoon at John Gallo Arena in Bourne.

The Vineyarders (12-6-3) had no answer for Matt Milko, who notched a hat trick for the Clockers (13-5-3), along with forward Brian Gazard (one goal, two assists) and defenseman Jackson Hornung. “Gazard is probably one of the three best players we saw all season long,” Vineyard Coach Matt Mincone said. “Hornung is a big kid with the skating ability to go with his size. He probably had 10 shots on goal.”

The first period was scoreless, but Gazard scored 1:58 seconds into the second for what proved to be the winning tally. Milko netted his natural hat trick with a goal at 11:38 of the second and a pair in the third period, the first 26 seconds in, and another with 3:08 left to play. “We had some jitters at the beginning, and our feet just never got going, never got a rhythm in the game,” Coach Mincone said.

The speedy Clockers gave the Vineyard offense precious little time with the puck, and applied intense pressure throughout the game. “They didn’t allow us to do much,” Coach Mincone said. “When we tried to carry the puck into their zone, we were unsuccessful, and turned the puck over at the blueline. We started to dump and chase, but every time we went to pursue the puck, they were right back at us. We were stuck in transition.”

When the Vineyarders shot the puck, they had a tough time hitting the net. They did, however, put three shots in short order off the head of Ashland goalie Connor Dempsey. It was that kind of night. “We tried to shoot everywhere on their goalie,” Coach Mincone said. “When we had opportunities, we were shooting the puck wide. We didn’t have a lot of time with the puck. We were shooting under pressure.”

When the Clockers had the puck, Vineyard goalie Mike Metcalf did his best to thwart their attack, and made 24 saves. “Mike Metcalf had the game of his career,” said Mincone.

With another season in the books, the Vineyarders can be proud of reaching the state tournament and winning the Cape and Islands League championship.

“At the end of the day, we got there and got some experience in the tournament, but we got outplayed,” Coach Mincone said. “We’re rising again. A lot of people in the locker room are coming back. The seniors we’re losing [Sean Hegarty, Colin Henke, Hunter Ponte, Willson Slayton, Ian Trance, and Metcalf], they’ve instilled the work ethic in the rest of the kids, so the future looks bright. A lot of players got good experience, and should be able to build on that going forward. No one likes to lose that last game, and unless you win the state championship, you’re going to lose the last game. They got a taste of playing in the tournament. Next year’s goal is to return to the tournament and see how much damage we can do.”