Hornets tie Amesbury, crush Pentucket

Jan 16, 2020 by

Published January 16, 2020

By DAN ZIMMERMAN

SAUGUS — This season, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) floated a two-year pilot program that provides an overtime option for high school hockey teams to potentially resolve tied scores via a five-minute, four-on-four segment.

While many schools have adopted this voluntary measure, others have chosen to hold out and continue with business as usual. The Bay State Conference and the Middlesex League, for instance, have exercised their right to choose and thus far, rejected the overtime option.

Individually, North Reading coach Brian McAuliffe admits that the measure plays a role in preparing players for the potential of overtime games that often take place during the playoffs. But as the regular season unfolds, there is agreement that at times, it is a bitter pill to swallow.

In nine games played, North Reading has been sent into overtime twice. In the Hornets season-opener with Bedford, the added five-minutes did not alter a 2-2 final. But on Saturday night, after skating to a hard-fought 1-1 tie with Amesbury, the host Indians picked up an artificial game-winning goal in the extra session. While it didn’t really count as a win, the on-ice celebration was painful for the North Reading faithful to observe.

CAM ALTER and the Hornets beat Pentucket on Jan. 9 and tied Amesbury on Saturday. The Hornets are now 1-2-1 in league play, their three points tied with Triton and Amesbury for fourth behind Lynnfield (five points), Newburyport (six points) and Masco (10 points). The Hornets play Lynnfield on Saturday, 12 p.m. at McVann-O’Keefe Rink. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

“I understand the premise of the overtime period,” said McAuliffe, who explained that the result does not impact his team’s record, which now stands at 4-3-2. “It’s something of a practice opportunity to get the kids ready for the state tournament. But it does feel unusual knowing we had an official tie…and then we didn’t. It certainly doesn’t feel like a tie. It’s actually deflating.”

Far better times were had by North Reading several days earlier, when Pentucket came in for a mid-week visit to Kasabuski. The MIAA Ice Hockey Game Sheet, used by scorekeepers to record statistics, has space to list 11 goals. The Hornets filled eight of those, pounding the beleaguered Sachems, 8-2. North Reading goal scorers included William McCann and Nicholas Pasquale, each with a pair, Sean Brown, Salvatore Schille, Storm Davis, and Andrew Daley. Brown added four assists, as well.

“We haven’t had one of these types of game in quite some time, especially in the Cape Ann League against a Division 2 opponent,” McAuliffe said. “We were trying to play hard all the way through and execute as best as we could. We had everyone involved; all the lines and it was a good team win. I was hoping the momentum would carry over to this game with Amesbury.”

Unfortunately, the puck-luck enjoyed by North Reading with Pentucket, which included a pair of goals the Sachems scored on themselves, subsided soon after arriving at the Valley Forum in Haverhill on Saturday night.

Actually, the Hornets claimed a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a power play goal and made it stand up for some time. The officials were calling it close and while Amesbury’s Thomas Newell served the first of his three infractions on the night, Alex VerColen cashed in with his team-leading eighth of the season.

The scoring play took shape as several Hornet skaters gained the blue line, overloading the right side. Francis Brachanow carried the puck, drawing the penalty kill contingent toward him. He sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open VerColen who picked his spot.

In the middle frame, North Reading threw everything they had at Indians freshman netminder Tre Marcotte – 18-shots in all – seeking an insurance goal, but came up empty. Marcotte, according to a number of spectators, had a career game.

At the 13:27 mark of the third period, Amesbury’s Luke McFarland lugged the puck over the line and leveled what looked like a harmless shot at North Reading goalie Cam Alter who misjudged it, just missing with the catching glove.

Midway through the five minute overtime, Amesbury’s Owen Reid broke in as part of a three-on-one rush and beat Alter, triggering a raucous celebration by the winning team – which actually wasn’t the winning team.

“Amesbury is a better team than they’ve been recently and I had a feeling this would be a close game,” said McAuliffe, who currently has 10 points, halfway to the tournament qualifying requirement of 20. “We have the cream of the league coming up in Masco on Wednesday and on Saturday, Lynnfield. These are the games we need to compete in and ultimately win if we hope to be a state tournament contender.”

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