WORCESTER, Mass. -- Mark Lee offered just a hint of a smile following St. Mary's nip-and-tuck 1-0 triumph over St. Peter-Marian today at the Holy Cross Hart Center.
Lee was satisfied with his team's first victory of the season but his overall impression of what had transpired over the previous two hours left little to be desired.
"We're not happy with the way we started," said Lee. "We made a million mistakes out there. We just couldn't seem to get it going. You could call it first game jitters and we had a lot of young kids out there. But I think we'll get better as the season goes.
“Hopefully, halfway through the season we'll be one of those teams people are talking about. Right now we have a lot of work to do because we certainly did not have our A game today."
The Spartans (1-0-0) found the terrain a bit rough against a young, much-improved Guardian club. Power plays were ample on both sides. On two occasions, St. Mary's held a one-man advantage for four minutes and later were given a 5-on-3 opportunity. Neither time, however, were the Spartans able to capitalize.
But just 4:53 into the third period of a scoreless tie, the Spartans finally solved the power play puzzle. With SPM's Dan Blute serving a hooking infraction, St. Mary's finally found the back of the net after freshman forward Eric Pedro knocked in a rebound past Nathan Pickett.
"At times our kids were a little tentative out there," Lee said. "I think after the first couple of periods we learned a lot. I think they played much better in the third period. We were able to change some lines around and that is something we'll be doing a lot of."
Following Pedro's tally, the Spartans' defense tightened up, forcing the Guardians (0-2-0) to move the puck along the boards instead of working it to the middle -- an area they would have much-preferred. St. Mary's goaltender Bailey MacBurnie came up large, especially late when he turned aside two quality SPM chances late to preserve the victory.
MacBurnie returned to the Spartans this season after spending last year at Brewster Academy. The senior looked like his old self when, as a sophomore, he helped guide the Spartans to a second seed in the Super 8 tournament, by stopping all 27 SPM shots.
"I was really excited to come back here," MacBurnie said. "We have a really young team but also have some good talent too. I kind of knew coming into this game that we had a good chance to win it and I think that's only going to continue throughout the year. We have a really good nucleus of defensemen here. Our defense is our strong suit right now."
Not to be overshadowed was the brilliant play of Pickett. Only a freshman, Pickett challenged the Spartans offense throughout the afternoon, finishing with 32 stops.
"Both goalies played well today, said Guardians coach Brian Allain. "I'm very pleased with the play of Nathan [Pickett]. His confidence is certainly there. He gets better each day he steps on the ice with us. I also felt their goalie was in the right place at the right time for them. He made some game-saving saves so to speak. We had our opportunities. Overall I'm happy with our team's performance, particularly with their mental game. We didn't make a lot of mental mistakes today."