Despite some strong goaltending and many power play opportunities — including four in the final period alone — the boys’ hockey team on Wednesday could not figure out the swarming defense of the Sandwich Knights and lost 3-1 in the second round of the Division II south sectional finals at Gallo Ice Arena.
On Saturday, the number three-seeded Vineyarders had defeated defending Division II state champion Hanover 5-2 in the south sectional quarterfinals. In that game, the Vineyarders needed some time to shake off the rust after a two-week layoff before taking a lead late in the first period and then adding two goals in the middle period to put the game away.
After the strong showing on Saturday, the Vineyard had plenty of chances against number two-seeded Sandwich Wednesday. Although the Knights took an early 2-0 lead in the first quarter, they proceeded to rack up penalty after penalty, and seemed to be down at least one man almost all game.
But thanks to a tenacious and often confusing defense and a standout performance by freshman goalie Kevin Farrington, the Vineyard had only a handful of quality shots on goal and were never able to launch a sustained attack against the higher-seeded Knights.
While Vineyarder goalie Alex Minnehan was brilliant for stretches between the pipes, he took a back seat to Farrington, who was perfect for most of three periods and ended the game with 19 saves.
Senior defenseman Darryl Lawrie first got the Knights on the board with a power play goal four minutes into the game. Just two minutes later, junior Garett Lessard scored his first of two goals of the game after being set up beautifully by a pass by junior Sean Gallagher.
The score remained at 2-0 through the first and second periods, during which the game clearly became more physical and sometimes chippy. On several occasions opposing players could be seen jawing at one another and there were many jarring checks along the boards that drew gasps from the capacity crowd.
Approximately 300 Vineyard fans, many dressed in the team’s colors of purple and white, traveled with the team and made their presence known with loud cheers and chants.
The Vineyarders had their best chance to score late in the first period during a five-on-four power play when senior Joel Rebello fired a slapshot from the left wing. The shot bounced off Farrington’s glove and hung precariously for a moment in front of an open net. But as several Vineyard players scrambled for the put-back, Farrington lurched across his body and smothered the puck, ending the threat.
During the first intermission, Vineyard coach Matt Mincone could be heard shouting encouraging words to his players through the concrete walls and metal door of the team’s dressing room. The team came out with renewed vigor in the second period, crashing into the Knights on the boards and chasing after every loose puck. But their efforts bore little fruit, and the middle frame was largely defensive struggle that saw each team take a meager eight shots on goal.
The Knights’ defensive line of Ryan Colombo, Andrew George, and Craig LaRocco continued to kill penalties and shut down passing lines. Meanwhile, the Vineyard’s top lines of Rebello, Henry Smith, and Mitch Pachico and the second unit of Nick Billingham, Darren Gazaille and Tad Gold had problems finding their rhythm.
Gazaille gave the Vineyard crowd a thrill late in the second with a breakaway but was turned back by a diving save by Farrington.
The Vineyarders had less of a spark at the start of the third period, even though they had three consecutive power plays to start the frame. The first came a mere 40 seconds into the period, giving them a great chance to cut the lead in half and make things interesting. But the Vineyarders squandered the opportunity and managed only a single shot on goal.
The Vineyarders had another power play at the 12:28 mark, but this time managed only a weak shot on goal. By this time, the Knights were content to kill the clock by dumping the puck in the Vineyard zone and giving chase. They put the game away at the 10:59 mark when Lessard scored his second goal of the game on a power play to make it 3-0.
The Vineyard’s Matt Flynn managed to spoil the Knight’s shutout bid with 55 seconds left in the game with a slapshot goal from about 30 feet out, but it was clearly a case of too little, too late. When the final horn sounded seconds later, players on both teams got into shoving matches that might have escalated into a brawl if the referees had not intervened.
With the loss, the Vineyarders’ final record fell to 13-2-6 for the season. With the win, Sandwich advanced to face number eight-seeded Franklin for the South championship on Sunday back at Gallo.