Despite a loss in their first game against Springfield Cathedral in the Super 8, the Duxbury boys’ hockey team showed they could skate with the private school powerhouse at even strength.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, they gave Cathedral power plays in game two.
Springfield’s three power-play goals made the difference in a 6-3 loss for the Dragons that ended their trip to the Super 8 tournament at Tsongas Arena in Lowell Thursday night.
They Dragons tried to mount a comeback with three goals in the third period, but it was too little too late with Cathedral firmly in control.
“You can’t make many mistakes on these guys at all,” head coach John Blake said. “Springfield showed today what they can do when they are clicking on all cylinders and when they are clicking, they are a dangerous team. We made some mistakes, gave them some power plays and you just can do that against a team like Springfield.”
Much like game one, the Dragons were playing from behind early after Tommy Leonard put Cathedral in front less than two minutes into the game. Springfield captain Peter Crinella padded the lead later in the first period with a slap shot off a face-off win that was in the back of the net before Duxbury goalie Tucker Kelley could react.
The Dragons held off Cathedral for the rest of the first period, but the wheels fell off in the second when Springfield scored three times to take a five-goal lead into the third. A Cathedral counter attack created a three-on-one rush at Kelley’s net that was finished by Leonard one minute and 35 seconds into the period, and then the penalties started coming for the Dragons. After a boarding penalty on Duxbury, 5 wristed the puck over Kelley’s shoulder for Cathedral’s fourth goal, and Crinella added his second of the game later in the period to send the Dragons into the locker room reeling.
Duxbury came out determined not to be blown off the ice in the third period, and Tyler Powers gave the team the jumpstart they needed when he rifled a slap shot top shelf two minutes and nine seconds into the period to put Duxbury on the board.
“Between the second and third period, we definitely wanted to come out and get rid of that zero on the board to finish the season strong,” Powers said. “We had to leave it all on the ice.”
Senior center Matt Saia cut Cathedral’s lead to three less than three minutes later with his second goal of the Super 8, but Crinella silenced the Dragon rally five minutes later when he beat Kelley with another quick slapper.
Matt Hammel gave the Dragons life late in the game with a five-hole goal off a feed from captain Mike Doyle with 1:32 left to play, but that was all the Dragons could muster as they bowed out of the tournament with the buzzer.
“I think [our third-period comeback] really symbolizes our team this year,” Blake said. “Our guys didn’t quit and our guys took us on a great ride… I’m proud of the way they played that third period. They didn’t quit and they finished that third period the way the year should have been finished.”
While it was a disappointing end to the season, Powers said the trip to the Super 8 with his teammates is a memory he will cherish for years to come.
“I’ll never experience anything in my life like that again,” Powers said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else on my team except those guys in [the locker room.] It was definitely special… I’ve never played on a better team in my life.”
It was a rocky journey to the tournament and the Patriot League championship this season for the Dragons, who were not able to get into the win column until the third week of the season. However, their ability to overcome their rocky start to earn a place among the best teams in Division I is a testament to the players, Blake said.
Despite the losses, Blake said the Dragons made a statement with their appearance in the elite tournament that public school teams can not only make it to the Super 8 but also play with the private school teams, which he hopes will keep local skaters from jumping ship.
“I think it sends a great message to all the public school kids out there to stay at your school,” Blake said. “This tournament was great for our guys, it gets great coverage, you get to play at a high level in great facilities and I think the message it sends to the kids in town is, if you stay and play at your high school, you can reap the benefits you’d get if you left anyway.”
The Dragons will need all the bodies they can as they will be graduating 11 seniors this spring. Blake said the Super 8 appearance was a fitting end for the talented senior class, and gave them credit for the program’s sustained success.
“The leadership of all of those guys has just been awesome,” he said. “You don’t go down to the Cape and win the Cape Cod Classic, beat teams like Hingham and Marshfield without a strong senior group. They gave this program a ton of publicity this year. They really took our program to the next level, and I’m very proud of our 11 seniors.”
Despite losing so many skaters, the Dragons have a strong core returning, particular at the back end with Kelley and the bulk of the team’s defensemen all coming back next year. Blake added that the strength of both his program at the JV and freshmen levels and Duxbury Youth Hockey in preparing young skaters for the high school game will allow he and his staff to find players to fill any holes they have come next winter.
“We really feel we have a strong feeder program where we don’t rebuild, we just reload,” he said. “We have some guys that will step into some roles, guys who have to work hard.”