Boston High School: Jake McKinnon

D2 North: Winthrop, Wilmington to meet in final

March, 7, 2012
NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. -- The fans who head to the Tsongas Center for the Division 2 North finals on Monday night might want to be prepared to be there for a while. And for good reason because the goaltending matchup that is now set to happen has the potential to keep goose eggs on the scoreboard.

Winthrop’s Steven Waites pitched his third shutout in as many games on Tuesday, this one propelling his Vikings to a dominating 6-0 win
over NEC North rival Saugus at the Chelmsford Forum.

The Vikings, the No. 10 seed, will meet Wilmington as the Wildcats rode their own hot goaltender – Drew Foley – to a 2-0 win over North Andover in the first semifinal tilt on Tuesday.

For Winthrop, it was their second win in three tries over the Sachems this season and showed that they are playing perhaps their best hockey of the season.

“The thing is that we’re just now hitting our stride and getting better,” Winthrop head coach Dale Dunbar said. “We were able to get everyone in and to let them feel a part of a win like this is nice.”

The Vikings have now beaten Tewksbury, Boston Latin and the Sachems by a combined 11-0 score as Waites has not allowed a goal in 125 minutes of tournament play.

“When he’s on and focused, Steve is as good as anyone,” Dunbar said. “And to go three games in the tournament without giving up a goal says a lot about our defense. We pride ourself on how we play in our own end of the ice.”

This one really wasn’t as close as the 6-0 score as the Vikings forced Saugus into mistake after mistake with the puck, many of them turning into odd-man rushes and goals on Sachem keeper Nick Hegarty.

“We simply turned the puck over way too much,” Saugus head coach Jeff Natalucci said. “And Winthrop will make you pay for every mistake that you make. And they made us pay every time.”

It took only four and a half minutes for the Vikings to get on the scoreboard as Jake McKinnon followed a Mike Paulson shot and slid the rebound home before he went crashing feet first into the boards.

Moments later, Winthrop was on the power play and looking for more offense. And they got it when Chris LeBlanc fed Mitch Paulson for the senior’s 10th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead after one.

“We wanted to come out fast and when you score that first goal, you get your legs under you and it gets the confidence up,” Dunbar said.

Saugus showed some flashes of its offense early in the second and it resulted in an interference penalty on Adam Lundberg at the 1:22 mark. Instead of it beign a chance for Saugus to make things interesting, the next 62 seconds turned the game into a rout.

Jimmy Barker forced a turnover along the left halfwall, sending LeBlanc and Dan Eruzione on a 2-on-1 against Hegarty. LeBlanc made a perfect pass and Eruzione slid the puck home for a 3-0 lead just 100 seconds into the middle stanza.

Less than a minute later, Matt Todisco picked off a pass and beat HEgarty clean on a break and the Vikings were suddenly up 4-0.

“Those two shorthanded goals were just a killer,” Natalucci said. “We had some chances there at the start of the second and then we made mistakes that cost us.”

Waites then went about snuffing out Saugus’ hopes as he made three stellar saves late in the period to keep it a 4-0 game after two.

The Vikings put the game away at 2:52 of the third when Chris Page snapped a shot over Hegarty’s shoulder. Just 55 seconds later, LeBlanc tipped home Lundberg’s shot on a power play to cap the scoring.

“We have talent and chemistry and that’s something that’s hard to find,” Dunbar said. “We have a lot of unselfish guys.”

For the second time in as many games, Drew Foley shut down one of the top offenses in the Cape Ann League as the Wildcats earned a third straight win over former rivals from the CAL.

The game was scoreless until the final minutes of the first period when Cam Owens blew a shot past Joel Daccord on a power play for a 1-0 Wilmington lead.

Foley then zoned in and snuffed out the Scarlet Knights offense. He stopped 25 shots in all, including nine in the third period when North Andover was pressing for the equalizer.

Jake Rogers’ empty net goal with under 20 seconds left put the game away for the Wildcats.

Framingham hockey cleared for takeoff

January, 10, 2012
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – Expectations are high for Framingham boys’ hockey this season. But the Flyers’ brightest days still may lie ahead.

A core of talented young players will keep the Flyers competitive as they face perhaps the most intense out-of-conference schedule in the state this year. Despite the tough road ahead, the group’s focused one simple goal – returning to the postseason. Last season, for the first time in more than decade and the first time during Paul Spear’s tenure as head coach, the Flyers failed to qualify.

With that said, the Flyers – although experienced in games played – are still young. Their schedule is unforgiving at best. That means they’ll be fighting for their lives the entire season.

And, quite frankly, captain Jake McKinnon wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a huge year for us,” McKinnon said after an early season practice. “[Last year] was the first year in 20 years that we didn’t make the tournament, so a lot of people in this town are looking to us to do big things, even though they’ve seen the schedule and they know what we’re up against. We’re going to give it our all.”

Now, the Flyers (who made our preseason Top 25, but have since dropped from the poll) have had their share of disappointments early. Against the likes of Top 10 teams, BC High, Catholic Memorial and Hingham, in recent weeks, the Flyers came away with a goose egg on the scoreboard. In those three games against Super 8-flight competitors, Framingham was outscored 12-0.

The Flyers dipped below .500 with Monday’s 4-0 loss to No. 7 Hingham at 3-4-1. It was a healthy reminder of where Spear hopes his team will be in the coming years.

“I’ve always wanted us to be like a Hingham or a Needham, those great public school programs in the state,” said Spear, who’s in his 13th season with the program. “I want us to get to that level.”

Spear believes the best way to accomplish that is to play the best.

“It inspires kids. It gets them to work hard in the offseason. If they don’t, they know it’s coming one way or another.”

The reason for Spear’s optimism hinges largely on the Flyers’ young talent. While McKinnon (6 goals) provides leadership and a scoring spark, it’s a young cast, including sophomore Corey Gorovitz and freshman Ryder Lessing, that has the program on the rise.

Defensively, the Flyers will be set for years to come with sophomore Al Lynch (35 saves vs. Hingham) and freshman Brendan Cytulik seeing time in nets, along with junior Casey Brigham. On the blue line, Framingham’s elder statesman is junior Brian Meaney. Framingham’s top five is filled out with four sophomores.

“Even though we’re a young team,” Gorovitz said. “We make up for it with the time we’ve had playing together.”

Now, all the Flyers have to do is make it to the second season. Heading into the thick of their Bay State Carey schedule, and with a couple more Catholic Conference challenges against Malden Catholic and St. John’s Prep later in the season, it won’t get any easier.

“Our league is brutal,” Spear said. “The way I look at it, we were one period away from the tournament last year. But I felt if we’d gotten in, we would’ve been able to beat anybody.”

He skipped a beat.

“We just need to get in.”