Updated March 7
In a game where a total of 18 penalties were called, and players had to be separated four times, the Vineyarders showed poise on Sunday versus No. 9 Stoneham, to win 4-0 and advance to the Elite 8.
Going into the tilt, the Vineyarders had actually been awarded the Cape & Islands’ Sportsmanship Award, but Stoneham was known for its physical play, and was already instigating some post-whistle action a minute into the first period.
When junior assistant captain Chase Grant showed who was boss with a nice check a couple of minutes later, he was sent to the box (much to the chagrin of the crowd), and the Vineyarders had to get their first of several penalty kills. But the MVRHS defense held strong, led by goalkeeper Zach Mathias, who finished the game with 21 saves, and co-captains Nick BenDavid and Nick Rego, who received league All-Star honors this year. Freshman Wyatt Wiggin also stepped up, earning Coach Matt Mincone’s Zamboni Award for the game.
On the other end, the Vineyarders keyed their first goal on their patented power play. With 6:15 to go in the first period, a BenDavid slap shot nearly opened the scoring as it teetered on the Stoneham goal line, but the Spartans managed to clear it at the last second. Regaining control of play after a brief Stoneham counterattack, All-Star sophomore Nate Averill found himself with a nice look on the Stoneham goal. But instead of making a shot, he wisely found the open man to the left of the goal, and All-Star sophomore Hunter Johnson finished it off.
In the second period, the Vineyarders scored two more times on the power play, with Rego and Averill lighting the lamp for MVRHS.
With 7:49 to go, the Vineyarders won the face-off, and Averill sent it to Rego at the point. Probing, Rego slowly skated to the middle of the rink, found the open hole, and wristed it past the screened Stoneham goalie to make it 2-0, only eight seconds into the power play.
Five minutes later, Averill got his own when Johnson made a crafty backhand pass to Averill behind the net, and Averill tucked it in. With the crowd on its feet, he pumped his fist and skated over to the student section, leaping into the glass as his teammates mobbed him.
In the third period, Stoneham got more and more frustrated (and dirty), but the Vineyarders remained composed and held on for the win. To top things off, senior Trevor Gullotta got his first goal of the season in transition, with a “blister of a wrister,” quipped commentator Joe Mikos. Gullotta earned Coach Mincone’s Player of the Game with his performance.
Moving on to the state quarterfinals, the No. 8 Vineyarders will face No. 1 Norwell at the Bog in Kingston, on Thursday at 5:20 pm. Norwell finished their season 20-1, but the Vineyarders got experience playing tough opponents all season long. Tickets for the game must be purchased online at gofan.co. The game can also be streamed at the Martha’s Vineyard Hockey Facebook page.