The inability to find the net and a lack of veteran players seemed to put a damper on the start of the hockey season for the Dragons, but the youth that replaced them gained valuable experience as their ice time increased.
As a result, Coach John Blake’s squad road an eight-game unbeaten streak to qualify for the post-season Division I tournament by finishing the regular season with a 9-6-4 record with three games remaining in the Cape Cod Classic. Not only did they make the play-offs, they did it by winning the Patriot League title with a 3-1 win over Pembroke last Wednesday night at Hobomock Arena in Pembroke.
While the Dragons may not blow anyone away with their offensive productions, they are proving that good goaltending can take you very far in the post-season.
Senior goaltender Connor Charland has been immense during the streak, allowing just one goal in each of the last four wins, including 17 stops in the win over the Titans.
Jacked and pumped, as Pete Carroll used to say, the Dragons came out of the gate versus Pembroke and immediately grabbed the lead just 52 seconds into the game when James Marcello tipped in a blast off the stick of junior defenseman Zach Snelling for a 1-0 lead.
Pembroke’s Mike Stazinski would tie the game at the 10:31 mark, but sophomore Nick Marrocco made sure the Dragons grabbed the lead before the period ended when he converted passes from Snelling and Bobby O’Brien with fewer than a minute left in the period for a 2-1 advantage.
Charland had to be sharp when the middle period started as he stopped a deflected shot 24 seconds after the face-off, and thwarted a Pembroke scoring attempt when a Duxbury miscue led to a wrap-around attempt he smothered.
As the game reached the midway point the next goal became critical. With 5:21 to go in the middle stanza defenseman Greg Williams notched his first goal of the year from the left point after hard work by freshman Luke Stevens and senior Cam Daley got the puck back to the senior.
The Dragons managed to hold off the Titans in the final 15 minutes, killing a pair of power-play opportunities for Pembroke and watching Charland come to the rescue one more time in the final two minutes of play.
After the win Blake talked about how hard a season it has been for his team.
“Coming into the league for the first time there was definitely a bull’s eye on our back,” said Blake. “We got every team’s best performance night in and night out. To be Patriot League champs you have to give those 22 kids all the credit. They knew they would get the other team’s best effort and they knew we had to match that effort every time out. Tonight we beat one of the league’s top teams in Pembroke because we were able to execute. We knew we had to take care of business before we headed for the Cape and we did.”
That trip to the Cape proved to be as dreaded as Blake feared, as Austin Prep hammered the Dragons for three first-period scores on their way to a 4-1 win over Duxbury in the Dragons’ tournament opener.
Nick Marrocco would score the only Duxbury goal to make it 3-1 in the third.