It ain’t easy.
The varsity Vineyarder boys hockey team had a disappointing week, earning a tie against Dennis-Yarmouth (D-Y) Regional, then dropped a 2-0 verdict against rival Nantucket on Saturday afternoon at the MV Ice Arena.
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) squad’s first half of the season has been in flux, dropping a 10-1 stinker against Plymouth North early, then raced off to a 5-1-1 start, including a wondrous 5-2 win against mighty mighty Hanover High School.
At 5-2-2 on Sunday, the Purple need only eight points in the final 11 games to earn the necessary 20 to qualify for postseason play. Teams get two points for a win and one point for a tie in regular-season play. The Vineyarders can also qualify by winning the Cape and Islands League Lighthouse Division, but after a tie and a loss in their first two division games, they would likely have to win the remaining four to pull off that feat.
Twenty-three-year Coach Matt Mincone was adamant from day one that he had a topflight team, but was nonplussed last weekend to watch his team turn in both topflight and poor play in the 2019-2020 season.
The Nantucket game on Saturday was particularly frustrating. “We were outplayed in every facet of the game. It’s just been an up-and-down season,” he mused. “Nantucket outshot us 33-17, We were beaten on every loose puck, and we took seven penalties.” The penalty piece was a head scratcher, as the referee called three consecutive penalties on sniper Logan Araujo in less than 10 minutes in the third period of the Nantucket game.
That is to say, every time Araujo stepped on the ice early in the third. That doesn’t happen at any level, and not to a kid who had two (2) penalty minutes in the first eight games. “I didn’t see the penalties in Logan’s game on Saturday,” Mincone said carefully. Chalk up that tilt as the Zebra Game.
Still, Mincone wasn’t making excuses. “We gave up a goal in the second period when Graham Stearns [goalie] and a defenseman got tangled up playing the puck behind our net, it popped out, and Nantucket had an empty net. In the third, the Nantucket kid made a great pass behind our defenseman to set up the second goal. Great goal. Give them credit,” he said, adding, “Their third line shut down our first line.” Nantucket outshot the Purple 28-5 in the final two periods.
On Wednesday against D-Y, the Vineyarders continued their habit of having to come from behind. D-Y scored midway through the first period, the Vineyarders countering with an Aiden Marek goal assisted by frosh defenseman Nick Rego, who had assists on all three goals and earned Player of the Game honors.
Hoffie Hearn lit the lamp 44 seconds into the third, with assists to Rego and Colby Zarba. D-Y tied it 2-2 at the seven-minute mark in the third, and there it stayed in regulation. Jackson Pachico ended it quickly in overtime, scoring at 1:40 of OT from Rego and Cam Geary.
“We had some momentum going in the third. I really thought the light switch was going to go on. I mean, we outshot them 44-10. We weren’t beating them, they were matching us.” Mincone said.
On the plus side, Mincone is getting strong play from younger players, and names like Rego, Marek and Geary are popping up on the scoresheet and in postgame analysis. “I gave them Monday and Tuesday off to think about how they want to be as a team. We keep waiting for someone else to do it; I hope they watch some game film, because the soul-searching begins on Wednesday,” he said.
The Purple travel to Gallo Ice Arena in Bourne to face a strong Canalmen squad on Saturday.