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Piacentinis rule the local rinks

2/17/2011

WEYMOUTH, Mass. -- Melissa and Tyler Piacentini sit in the lobby of the MDC Rink. It’s where they grew up, figuratively speaking. The Weymouth residents both learned to skate here. They played together here for a time in the youth league as well.

Tyler had come back from an afternoon game with his Weymouth High hockey teammates, while Melissa had just finished up practice over at Thayer Academy. The Piacentini siblings are leaders of their respective teams and feared presences in the offensive zone. They’re competitive, they’re talented and, at least most of the time, they’re supportive.

“I usually go to all of his games,” said Melissa, a junior captain with the Tigers, “and I try to get him to come to mine…”

Tyler interjected: “Well, most of her games are at 4 o’clock and we have practice usually at that time, so it’s hard to get there.”

Discrepancies in schedule aside, the Piacentinis are strikingly similar on the ice. Along with their prodigious offensive skill, they’re not afraid to do the dirty work. Both Melissa and Tyler echoed the sentiment that they enjoy digging pucks out of corners to set up chances for teammates.

But they also can finish. Tyler, a senior, is among the state’s top scorers for Weymouth, with 27 goals and 26 assists. His latest marker was yet another dramatic game-changer, netting the tying goal in the Wildcats’ 1-1 tie against Braintree on Wednesday in a clash of Super Eight ‘Watch List’ teams. It helped earn Weymouth its first Bay State Carey title since 2007.

Melissa has netted 23 goals and 13 assists with five games left to play. That comes after a 53-point (36 G, 17 A) performance last season.

It also serves to note the Piancentinis share physical traits. It’s not a stretch to say they’re usually the smallest players on the ice at any given time.

One thing’s for certain, however, they don’t let their perceived lack of height stand in the way.

“Obviously, you know that Tyler’s one of the smallest guys on the ice and he’ll tell you that he’s sick and tired of hearing about that,” Weymouth head coach Matt Cataldo said. “I always thought he was going to be a pretty good player, but I never thought he’d be this type of player.”

Cataldo even admitted that he was hesitant to press Tyler into varsity service as a freshman. His talent level wasn’t questioned, but Cataldo was worried about how he’d hold up to the wear and tear against bigger players. That season, Piacentini was Weymouth’s third leading scorer — all doubt was removed.

“I will tell you this, after watching him play in the last four years, I don’t care how big a kid is anymore,” Cataldo said. “If a kid can play, they can play. Tyler’s a testament to that.

“It’s driven him, too. His foot speed’s only gotten better and you can’t move him off the puck. Some teams have to use everything but a machete to take him off the puck.”

Thayer girls’ hockey head coach Bill Lanagan thinks Melissa’s natural talent and drive overcome any adversity as well.

A three-sport athlete at Thayer, who was also a part of the Tigers’ first-ever NEPSAC Class B field hockey championship team in the fall, Piacentini turned a snub for the U-14 U.S. Hockey development camp into a positive during her Tigers career. By increasing her foot speed, Melissa returned to become a member of the U-15 and U-16 national camps in addition to winning a U-14 national championship with the Assabet Valley club team.

“Speed is her biggest asset, but more than that, she’s got hockey sense,” Lanagan said. “It’s easy to teach things to her, she understands the game and her decision-making comes quickly.”

Also inherent to the Piacentini clan is their competitiveness.

And, whether it’s on the ice or in the driveway playing street hockey, or at the dinner table talking about hockey, it’s all about — well, hockey.

“We’re both very competitive, ever since we were little, in everything we do,” Melissa said.

Tyler added, “No one can ever lose.”