FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Medfield needed some sort of spark after giving up a shorthanded goal late in the first period and senior captain Ben Cox delivered it during the intermission between the first and second periods.
His message was about staying calm and composed in the face of a potential onslaught by rival Medway, and from the seniors down to a group of talented freshmen, the Warriors heeded his words.
Medfield strung together four straight goals in the second period and put themselves in the driver's seat for the Tri-Valley League championship with a 5-2 victory over the Mustangs at Sgt. Pirelli Rink Wednesday afternoon.
"What really turned us around was our captain, Ben Cox," explained Warriors freshman Matt Treiber, who had two goals and an assist in the win. "He got us really fired up during the first intermission. He just told us to go out there and do our job and that we can beat this team like we did today if we play our game."
With the memory of a 6-2 thrashing by Medway (12-1-3 overall; 9-1-2 TVL) earlier in the season still stinging, Medfield (16-1-0; 11-1-0) found itself on its heels as the Mustangs scored a pair of shorthanded goals. Jack Kilty got the first one, scoring on a breakaway with 2:11 left in the first, and Bobby Schindler scored in similar fashion just 11 seconds into the second.
Penalties would be an issue all night long, and with Cox's intermission speech eventually taking hold, Medfield made some adjustments to its extra-man strategy that paid immediate dividends. Rather than cycling the puck up high, the Warriors elected to move deeper in the zone and cashed in as freshman John MacLean fired a perfect pass to Justin Hirschfeld for a one-timer just 18 seconds after Schindler's goal.
Treiber continued the roll, burying a nice feed from Tyler Etzkorn at 3:44 to tie the game at 2-2. MacLean then put Medfield ahead for good, pouncing on the rebound of a shot by sophomore Will Murphy with 3:46 to go in the frame.
The Warriors added one more power play marker by Matt Crowell and a third-period score by Treiber for the final margin.
Undisciplined play did Medway no favors as the team took 13 penalties and had two players ejected in the third period.
"I thought we came out relatively well in the first period but once we started getting the penalties in the second period it obviously changed the whole momentum of the game to Medfield's favor," Medway head coach Chris Ross admitted. "Once we had those few penalties in a row we never recovered. We stopped moving our feet, we were undisciplined. I was not happy with how we played at all.
YOUTH SERVES WARRIORS WELL
The atmosphere was electric as fans from both towns filled the rink and made to make their presence felt. A potential league title was on the line, not to mention the heated rivalry between two towns who regularly battle one another for the TVL title.
Young players who may not be fully used to such situations are excused if they don't handle the elements well, but such was not the case for Medfield.
Freshmen Matt Treiber and MacLean combined for three goals and two assists while sophomore blue-liners Murphy and Hirschfeld made strong contributions as well.
"It's great to have kids who can come in here and play at this level and be very relaxed and handle the situation," Medfield head coach Toby Carlow praised. "I think this being the second time we've done this - big crowd, loud, great atmosphere - they were more relaxed this time, thats for sure and it showed. They're a good group of little players and I'm happy to have them, thats for sure."
Added Cox, ""We had some of the younger guys like Matt, who really stepped up, and John MacLean. It was really huge when they take some of the weight off the older guys. We just told them to keep their heads. Medway gets a little chippy sometimes, and so do we in big games, but we had to keep our composure and I think we did that."
Both teams came into the game tied atop the Tri-Valley League with 20 points, and the Mustangs had a chance to clinch at least a share of the title. Medfield changed all that with the win, and can now claim the crown if they can take down Dover-Sherborn next Wednesday.
"The kids knew if they they wanted to have a chance at the league title we had to come here and do this," Carlow said. "They did it and now it's one of those things where you control your own destiny."
Ross explained why the league race is now in Medfield's control, despite the fact that the two teams could end up tied in points once league play is complete.
"I don't forsee Medfield losing out any games. It's a weird situation. There's a rule that a team can opt out and Hopkinton opted out of playing Medfield so it will go by winning percentage. So if they win their next game they clinch the TVL title no matter what we do, even if the points end up even."