HINGHAM, Mass. -- Hingham outshot Winchester, 35-15, Monday night at Pilgrim Rink. If quantifying the Harbormen’s time of possession, it would have approached approximately 70 percent in their favor. They were fast, strong, and in control.
But heading into the final minutes of the third period, it was still just a one-goal game and the Sachems, led by sophomore goaltender James Offner (32 saves), were one chance away from stealing a point on the road.
Finally, with 1:47 remaining in the game, junior forward Sam D’Antuono tipped a shot through Offner’s 5-hole and Hingham (12-5-1) could celebrate a crucial 3-1 win, boosting its chances of earning a place in the Super 8.
“We’re just trying to win every shift, every period,” Harbormen head coach Tony Messina said. “I know that sounds clichéd, but with our schedule it’s like this every night. Winchester is a very good team, but every other team we play seems to be good, too.”
He then added, “We have a little trouble scoring goals so every team seems to be tough for us. We’re used to these types of games.”
The way that the game started, it did not look like scoring would be an issue for the hosts. Hingham, riding the emotion of the pregame Senior Night ceremony, stormed out of the gates and outshot Winchester, 13-3, in the opening period. Stephen Hughes had already hit an early post when senior forward Jack Gordon flicked a shot past Offner to make it 1-0 at 6:22.
Winchester (11-4-2), which had turned the puck over in its defensive zone leading to the opening goal, was struggling to get any offense. Yet, 27 seconds into the second period, the game was tied. A scramble in front of Hingham goalie John Grenier was stabbed home by Bobby Keane on a feed by Brendan Greene.
Sachems head coach Matt Spang was proud of the way his team reacted to going behind and battled back against a strong opponent.
“They came at us hard, which we knew they would because they’re a very good team,” he said. “The first five minutes they were on us, but we weathered the storm and got right back in the game. In the third period we didn’t find another gear, which is unfortunate.”
After recording the first three shots of the second period, all within the opening 90 seconds, Winchester could not sustain the momentum and slowly Hingham got back the control of the game. After being repeatedly thwarted by Offner, the Harbormen finally regained the lead.
With the two teams skating 4-on-4, Hingham stole the puck in the neutral zone and junior defenseman John Carlson drove at the Sachems defense. He then fired a pass across to the far circle where junior captain Matt Brazel fired an unstoppable one-timer just inside the post to make it 2-1. It was the type of goal that comes from playing on the same line since juniors and, according to Messina, a much needed score for the team.
He remarked, “The second goal that they got just drives a coach crazy. We warned them about that, take their focus off what they’re doing and go out there thinking it’s going to happen by accident. They scored and I think that got them going pretty good. It was good to answer that pretty quickly.”
The Sachems went into the third period down only a goal, despite the gulf in shots and chances created. In the final 15 minutes, Winchester continued to struggle to create scoring opportunities and mustered only four shots on goal, several of which were from outside the blue line.
Hingham was the aggressor, despite the one-goal lead, and with 2:51 left had a goal wiped off the board because the net was dislodged. A little over a minute later, D’Antuono redirected Corbin Robichaud’s shot from the point and put the game away.
“In the third period, it’s a 2-1 game against a very good team,” Spang said, “that’s when we need our better players to step up and that wasn’t the case tonight and that’s unfortunate. I don’t think our ‘D’ zone was great tonight. We need to improve a lot.”
He added, “We had a lot of turnovers…way, way, way too many turnovers.”
Messina credited his team’s mentality for forcing the Sachems into giveaways. He noted, “Once we got the forecheck going, we were pretty good. We like to get our defense up in the play so that helps keep the puck in and we did, we turned a couple of those [turnovers] into good shots.”