The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys hockey team had put itself in a ticklish spot. Tied 1-1 in overtime against Whitman-Hanson on Saturday after coming back to tie the game on a power play goal by Hunter Johnson in the third period, the Vineyarders were called for a hit from behind, a major penalty after only a few seconds ticked off the clock. (They almost lost in regulation but a WH goal was called back for goalie interference in the third period.)
That meant if the Vineyarders were going to defeat WH, they were going to have to do it with three skaters against WH’s four. (Overtime rules are 4-on-4.)
Enter senior Jake Scott. “I had sat him down a little bit in that game to get a little more out of him. He’s the fastest skater on our team, probably the hardest shot, but his game has been off a touch. So I wanted him to watch it a little bit and kind of get his juices flowing again,” Coach Matt Micone said. But with his team down to three skaters, Coach Mincone looked to his senior and sent him on the ice. “Knowing the speed he has and he hadn’t played a shift in the third period, I said, it’s time. He goes out there and uses his speed, all over the ice, motoring to the puck and ends up having a pretty good scoring chance — misses on that one — and then comes back around, finds the puck, and gets tripped for a penalty shot.”
In practice, Jake never misses a breakaway in practice. So faced with the decision to even up the sides 3-on-3 or give Jake a chance to win the game, Coach Mincone chose to have Jake take the shot. “I said to him, this is the opportunity we’ve been looking for for you. He goes down and scores and the place just went electric after that,” the coach said.
Coach Mincone explained his decision to sit Jake and then put him in — a choice that turned out to be a game-winning decision. “It wasn’t a benching,” he said. “I wanted him to see the game and watch it. He’s never lacked passion or work ethic, his game’s just been off. It was one of those types of games where it was tight, we were playing well, and I have a sophomore who has been showing me some good stuff in practice and I wanted to get him some more minutes. Was it the best move? Well, it looks good because Jake went and scored the game winner. In the big picture, it was a bunch of moves we made. Ultimately, the players played well and stayed in the game.”
The major penalty could have been a major downfall for the team.
In OT, Coach Mincone moved Nick BenDavid to defense and goalie Graham Stearns kept the team in the game with his stellar play between the pipes. “You beat them with speed and that’s what we did,” Coach Mincone said.
The coach is trying to keep it all in perspective, pointing out to his players that their next opponent, Bourne, won’t give Saturday’s win a second thought. “We might have had a great moment. The bench emptied,” he said. “It was like an electric plant. The place went bananas. It was a really great moment for the team. But Bourne doesn’t care. We’re going to try to ride that momentum.”
Saturday’s win came after a dominant win a few days earlier over Saint John Paul II. MVHRS won 6-2, an identical score to their first win over the Cape school.
“We had a bit of an offensive explosion in that one. We went up quick, 2-0,” Coach Mincone said. “But like I told the players, you get a team into a situation where they’re down and there’s no reason to help them back up — and we did. We put our hand out and let them stand up again and that was bad.”
The score was 2-2 after one, but then the Vineyarders pulled away in the second 4-2, and finished the game with 2 goals in the final period for the final score.
Once again it was the freshman line that dominated the scoring with four of the six goals with Frankie Paciello the player of the game with two of them and an assist. Hunter Johnson had a goal and three assists, and Nate Averill had one goal and one assist.
“I don’t even want to call them a freshmen line anymore because they’re seasoned,” Coach Mincone said. “They’re not freshmen anymore to me. They’ve gotten valuable minutes from the beginning of the season and now it’s time to put up and they’re doing it. These kids are fun to coach.”
Will Bruguiere tallied the other two goals.
The team is now 8-1 and after some lapses in their schedule because of COVID, mid-terms, and weather, they have a pretty busy two weeks coming up. They face Bourne away on Wednesday, Nauset away on Saturday, and then Sunday they travel to Marlboro to play Hopkinton.
“I watch them in practice now … they just want to compete,” Coach Mincone said. “Tweaks, minor tweaks, but nothing major is gonna change. Just outwork the other teams and you get good results.”