PEMBROKE, Mass. – With backyard rivals Duxbury and Marshfield duking it out in a Martin Luther King Day matinee, there was sure to be plenty of emotion. That was evidenced in the 23 penalties doled out to the teams in the course of 45 minutes.
But aside from the extracurriculars, the matchup between two of the top-ranked public high schools in the state was sure to be a heavy game. In that regard, the No. 18 Dragons bettered their 11th-ranked counterparts from Marshfield, while jumping out to a 3-0 third-period lead. Although the Rams made it a game with back-to-back power-play goals late in the third, Duxbury held on for a 3-2 win.
And they might just have gained something else in the process.
“Our guys wanted to go out there and earn some respect,” Dragons head coach John Blake said. “They were ranked ahead of us in all of the polls. They’re the top public school in a lot of polls. And we felt today we had a great opportunity to gain some respect and I think our guys really showed that they have some character.”
Duxbury (6-1-3) claimed a 1-0 lead 6:47 into the first on a Mike Boyle goal from Nick Marrocco.
Yet, it could have been worse for Marshfield (8-4-0), as the Rams were outshot 13-1 in the first frame.
Marshfield had difficulty breaking out of its own zone against the Dragons’ forecheck. The sledding wasn’t much easier in the neutral zone either, with Duxbury looking to take away open ice, in particular from the Rams’ potent top trio of JoJo Carbone, David Cataldo and Pat Shea.
The Rams improved their effort through the neutral zone, playing a more even period in the second, but the Dragons were still able to distance themselves. Shawn Errasti scored a power-play goal at 9:29 on Matt Saia’s dish across the faceoff dots.
“Our power play, we changed it up because it wasn’t really working,” Errasti said of the Dragons’ practices leading up to Monday’s action. “We were looking back door all day and it just worked.”
Duxbury netted its third goal at 8:15 of the third with Saia picking up his second helper of the game on Matt Murphy’s tally.
However, as the penalties continued to add up, the Dragons were burned on the Rams’ 5-on-3 power play chance with less than four minutes to play.
Marshfield called its timeout and the advice was heeded.
“It was a simple as we have to outwork them,” Rams head coach Dan Connolly said. “Every loose puck, we had to get three guys on it and then throw everything on net, I don’t care where it is, and have somebody out front. And it finally worked.”
Nevin Connors was finally able to solve Duxbury goaltender Tucker Kelly (16 saves) with 3:38 to play, putting back a puck through a scrum on the rebound of a shot from Jacob Maher. The Rams then went 2-for-2 on the sandwiched power plays, when Cataldo potted an unassisted goal just 17 seconds later.
Marshfield had a couple more point blank opportunities with goaltender Connor Lemieux (26 saves) pulled from his cage, but Kelly countered on each chance.
“You dig yourself a hole of three goals against a good team,” Connolly said, “it’s hard to come back.”
Mission accomplished: Entering Monday’s action, Blake paid extra attention to Marshfield’s top line, giving the primary responsibility of going toe-to-toe with the Rams’ top unit to his “shut-down” defensive pair of Tyler Powers and Errasti.
“We think that first line with Cataldo, Carbone and Shea is dynamite,” Blake said. “That’s the best first line we’ve played against all year long. We really wanted to try to limit their time and space, and then try to take the body as much as we could, and keep them on the perimeter.”
The plan worked, keeping the line scoreless until Cataldo’s power-play marker late in the third.
By limiting the trio’s speed coming through the neutral and then forcing the fleet-footed forwards to operate from the perimeter in the attack zone, the Dragons were largely able to mitigate the group’s impact.
“We knew they were coming out high, Coach [Blake] scouted them,” Errasti said. “They were coming from the week side and cutting across. We wanted [the third forward] high and our D would back up. We thought we could handle them defensively.”
On Errasti, who logged a boatload of minutes, Blake heaped praised on the blue-liner, citing him, and the work of his partner, Powers, as a key to Monday’s win.
“We have no problem putting him out there on the power play, PK or out against their top line because he keeps things simple out there and does the right thing,” Blake said of Errasti.
He added, “I thought they executed the game plan to a ‘T.’ We had them [Errasti and Powers] out against those guys for a specific reason – to shut them down – and I thought they did a great job.”
An added victory: Monday’s game was also played as part of a daylong fundraiser for the teams. The Fifth Annual “Green Cup” raised funds for the American Cancer Society.
The proceeds from t-shirts and knitted caps, along with raffle tickets will be donated.
Last year’s event raised more than $3,000.