Island hockey fans packed the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena last weekend to get a taste of what was in store for the upcoming high school season, as both the girls and boys varsity teams played three scrimmages against strong competition.
The boys started off the weekend by downing Division 1 Lexington, 4-1, and followed up with a 5-0 shutout over Oyster River of Durham, N.H., on Saturday morning. In Sunday’s lunchtime finale, Lexington got even by a 3-0 count.
“There were definitely some eye-opening things. We’re trying to identify who we are again,” said Coach Matt Mincone, who is entering his 21st season as Vineyarder head coach.
The line of Will Bruggiere (senior), Nick Ben David (junior), and Finn Lewis (senior) had a strong game. Freshman forwards Nate Averill, Hunter Johnson, and Frankie Paciello also gave a good account of themselves. “Everybody played well Friday night,” Mincone said. “Graham [Stearns] was good in net.”
Lewis and Scott notched three goals each in the two wins, with Ben David, Averill, and Paciello scoring the other Vineyard goals.
Sophomore goaltender Zach Mathias saw his first varsity action on Saturday against Oyster River, and the Vineyard defense was resolute. “Our defense was solid. I expected that,” Mincone said. “We have players back there who have played a lot of minutes. Noah Smith, junior; Nick Rego, junior; John Coogan, senior; and Charlie Lakis, senior; Aiden Conley, sophomore; and Harper Hearn, junior.” The Vineyarders also got solid work up front from seniors Jake Scott, Jake Cleland, and Sam Hoyt, along with sophomores Liam Conley and Chase Grant and junior Richie Combra.
Despite the result on Sunday, Coach Mincone was largely upbeat about the weekend as a whole. “I’m pretty optimistic about the work ethic. Effort has been through the roof,” he said. “We have experience on defense. I’m just looking to see who’s going to be scoring goals.” The coach singled out Nick Ben David as the standout performer in the three scrimmages. “He controlled the game real good with his puck possession, and I had him on the penalty kill and the power play.” Speaking of penalty killing, Mincone quipped, “The ones that I had lined up to kill the penalties were taking them.”
Joining Mincone behind the bench this season are Assistant Coach Jack McGroarty and Goalie Coach Dayce Moore. The Vineyarders begin the regular season on Tuesday at home versus Nauset. The puck drops at 4:30 pm.
Successful weekend for girls team
The Vineyarder girls also enjoyed a successful weekend, as a new era begins with Geoghan Coogan taking over the head coaching reins from John Fiorito, who called it a day after 11 seasons to spend more time with his family. Coogan coached at the youth hockey level for 10 years, and spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the boys varsity. Mallory Watts is the varsity assistant coach.
The girls couldn’t have started off the weekend any better, skating past the Needham Rockets, 5-2, in the Saturday matinee. “It was great,” Coach Coogan said of the winning effort. “We took it to them pretty good. I think their coach was a little surprised.”
The evening contest, the first of two against Lincoln-Sudbury, was a 5-5 thriller. The Vineyarders led 3-1 in the second period, but the Warriors fought back to earn the tie. “That was a great game, actually,” Coogan said. “I think Lincoln-Sudbury was even a notch above where Needham was.”
On Sunday, Coogan said that the Vineyarders fell prey to a case of some tired legs and a couple of late-period goals. “But the girls still played great,” he said.
Of the three scrimmages, Coogan said, “We wanted to get them to play a little bit more open, no fear of mistakes, just playing their scrimmages, trying to feel yourselves out. Just trying to play with no negative attitude. Don’t worry if the puck doesn’t go the way you want it to. We’ve got to see what we’ve got and play with a little more tempo.”
Offensively, the Vineyarders had a noticeable spring in their skates, especially in the form of freshman Izzy Blake, who lit the lamp four times on Saturday. Alana Nevin and Olive MacPhail tallied twice apiece, Annabelle Metell scored the first goal against Needham, and Lila Mikos, the lone senior on the team, also scored over the weekend.
“We’re excited,” Coogan said. “We only have one senior, four freshmen, all of whom can contribute, and we’ve got some energy. We’re going to build off it.”
The Vineyarders start the regular season on Thursday in Orleans against the Cape Cod Furies (Nauset), and continue on the road for three games in five days at Brookline, Latin Academy, and Falmouth before skating against Dennis-Yarmouth in the home opener on Dec. 18 at 4:30 pm.