WOBURN, Mass. -- Sometimes the best laid plans can often be whittled down to a certain hunch one might have. On Thursday night, Tom Pare had one and the Lincoln-Sudbury head coach decided to go with it.
Less than 24 hours before the Warriors' Division 2 North quarterfinal contest against Winthrop, Pare let his intuition take over. He adhered to a belief that his junior goaltender Derek Ashe was the right man for the job to start, what L-S hopes will be a long and magical playoff ride.
As it turned out, Pare's presumption was right on. On Friday night, Ashe was marvelously between the pipes, stopping 25 of 26 shots to lift the Warriors to a 2-1 triumph over the Vikings at Ned O'Brien Ice Rink.
No. 4 L-S (13-3-5) moves into Monday's semifinal round against top seed Beverly (a 2-1 winner over Danvers) at Chelmsford Forum at a time yet to be determined.
The victory over the Vikings marks the second in as many years for L-S in the postseason. Last year, in quarterfinal action, the Warriors won in a shootout.
"The guys stepped up and that is what it really came down to," said Pare. "We came into this rink with an attitude and everyone was ready to go. The senior leadership really stood out tonight. One player in particular is Matt Barker. He was planting kids all over the ice. He's just a top, gritty leader for us. He's just one of those kids you love having on your team. If it wasn't for guys like him we don't win this game because Winthrop is physical and have some snipers on their team."
Trailing by a goal after two periods, No. 5 Winthrop (15-6) threw everything it could on Ashe over the final frame. The Vikings fired 13 shots his way in the period but failed to notch the equalizer. With just four seconds remaining and goalie Raymond Feeley (25 saves) pulled for the extra attacker, Winthrop made a final desperation attempt on net. Defenseman Stephen Goddard positioned himself inside the blue line. As the senior waiting for traffic to convert around the crease, he then unleashed a rocket through a plethora of legs, skates and sticks. Yet somehow Ashe was able to find the puck through all the chaos, snatching it in mid-air to preserve the victory.
"After I make one save it's all about making the next save," Ashe said. "That last one was more a reaction save for me. I knew he would shoot it high because most guys shoot the puck high in high school I just kept my position and was able to tie it up."
As this one played out, the Warriors needed every ounce of energy from Ashe to pull this one out. Winthrop started this game off extremely flat. Turnovers, several in fact, inside its own zone as well as the neutral zone had the Vikings playing back on their heels for a large portion of the opening period.
In addition, the Warriors came out of the blocks looking to be physical and bounce Winthrop off its anticipated lanes.
Adding to Winthrop's misery, the Warriors jumped ahead 1-0 at 4:30 of the first after sophomore Drew Baker put back his own rebound from the short side. A few minutes later, L-S was called for a couple of penalties. However, Winthrop could not convert on either man-advantage opportunity. The Vikings were handed another power play opportunity early in the third but could not capitalize.
"We talked about coming out the gate and having a fast start but I didn't think we did that," said Winthrop head coach Dale Dunbar. "But when we started getting our feet going then the body I felt things were going the other way for us. Our power play looked good but we just couldn't beat [Ashe]. Give him credit because he made some big-time saves. We had our chances but didn't capitalize and it's a tough one to swallow right now."
The Warriors went up by a pair at 3:57 of the middle period. Baker, standing inside the left circle, hoisted a shot which caromed off of Feeley's chest. The puck rolled out in front where defenseman Aiden Maron was waiting and the sophomore put his shot into the back of the net.
To the Vikings credit, the lackadaisical play witnessed early on was now behind them. Midway through the second, Winthrop was doing a much-better job getting to loose pucks, hitting their opponent back and effectively transitioning into the L-S zone. Things would finally pay off for them at 8:15 as junior Zach Deeb poked in a rebound glove-side bringing the Vikings to within a goal.
The intensity seen during the final minutes of the second by Winthrop carried into the third. Then, it was the Vikings playing the role of aggressor as they were finding open spaces to shoot the puck from. Meanwhile, L-S was playing not to lose as it tried to nurse its lead by tossing the puck into the Vikings zone on every opportunity.
With time winding down, Winthrop left nothing on the table in search for that elusive tying goal which never came.
"That was a great goaltending effort by him," Pare said. "Literally it came down to Thursday night after practice when I announced who would be the starter. Derek just mentally prepares for these type of games. We scrimmaged Wachusett Regional on Wednesday and then we had a great practice on Thursday and I just felt he earned the start tonight and I'm glad he did because he played great."