Boston High School: Jeff Natalucci

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.

D2 North: Winthrop, Saugus to meet in semi

March, 3, 2012
WOBURN, Mass. -- A trip to Woburn's O'Brien Arena for a pair of Div. 2 North quarterfinal round tilts told two very different tales and resulted in a pair of very familiar rivals setting up for a showdown in Tuesday's semifinals:

Enduring heavy pressure from a Boston Latin team well aware that it's season was on the line, Winthrop's senior goalie Steven Waites had to stare down the barrel of dangerous Wolfpack sniper Conal Lynch not once, but twice, with under a minute and a half to play.

Lynch managed to get a pair of great looks from the slot, one off a faceoff and the other at the end of a scramble for possession. Both times, Waites got himself in position to make the stops, letting each shot scream into his chest and securing the win for his Vikings in the process.

"It was nerve-wracking," Waites admitted afterward. "My team definitely played great in front of me and I just had to do the best I could and be solid out there and just try to win the game and we did."

Dan Eruzione staked the Vikings (14-6-2) to an early lead after linemate Chris Leblanc made a great hustle play to keep possession. Leblanc blocked a Boston Latin (15-3-4) clearing attempt just outside the blue line and worked the puck back into the zone along the left wing boards.

While battling with a pair of defenders, Leblanc spied Eruzione flying through the zone and pushed a soft pass forward to the sophomore. Eruzione turned and fired a shot from a tough angle, but the puck snuck through just inside the far post at 2:32 of the first.

"It was communication," Leblanc explained. "I heard Danny call for a chip and we’re good with that. We communicate well. I just tried to throw it in the middle and I got it to him and he did the rest."

Added Eruzione, "Chris did a real nice job down low, forechecked the hell out of their defenseman and found me really nice off the wall and I just found the back of the net. More luck than anything but I found it."

From there, the Vikings settled into their trap and the four-man defensive corps led by Mike Paulson teamed up with Waites to shut down several strong scoring chances for the Wolfpack.

"Defense wins championships. I know its cliche but its true and we pride ourselves on team defense," Winthrop head coach Dale Dunbar said. "I think our goals against is maybe under two and it’s been like that for a long time because we pride ourselves on knowing that, if you want to be a playoff team, you have to play good in your own end. Offense comes from defense and I thought we got away from it in the second period so I wanted to make sure our mindset was five in the house, make sure we’re sacrificing our body, chip pucks out, and just be on the right side of pucks and we did."

While goals were hard to come by in the early game, the Sachems had little trouble putting the pedal to the metal. Saugus scored five times in the first period, twice shorthanded, and were able to maintain its lead for the win.

"We've got our edge back a little bit," Sachems head coach Jeff Natalucci said. "Last year at this time of the year, we were playing with an edge and I really feel like we've got it back. We could have easily packed it in the other night down 3-1 and quit [an eventual 5-4 overtime win over Beverly]. The other night was a huge win for us to build off. We're playing together. All three lines are going hard, our D are playing hard and we're just playing well as a group."

Given the fact that these two teams met 11 days ago and battled to a 0-0 tie in the Newburyport Bank Classic, with Saugus winning in a shootout, the first-period offensive eruption would seem a bit surprising. Natalucci has been imploring his team to get out of the gates quicker, and was hoping the comeback against Beverly would carry over.

Kurt Rodrigues notched a hat trick and added a pair of assists, Saige Tait score twice and Drew Oxley had a goal and two helpers. Rodrigues and Tait each scored twice in the first period, and both had shorthanded tallies on the same penalty kill. Nick Taylor scored the other Saugus goal.

In particular, it's been the Sachems top line of Rodrigues, Oxley and freshman Anthony Cieri leading the way in a stretch of four wins over the team's last five games.

"I've played with Drew my whole life," Rodrigues said when asked about his line. "He's one of the best passers in the league and we always connect on those two-on-ones. Our freshman Anthony Cieri's playing real well. He's come along good in the playoffs. It's just clicking for us at the right time."

Recap: Saugus 4, Danvers 1

February, 12, 2012
SAUGUS, Mass. -- For 30 minutes, two-thirds through their heavyweight bout with Saugus, the Danvers Falcons appeared poised to put a stranglehold on the Northeastern North crown. Kevin Brown's Falcons swarmed Saugus netminder Nicholas Hegarty, badly outshooting and outhustling Jeff Natalucci's Sachems at Kasabuski Arena.

In fact, Hegarty and Saige Tait's slick breakaway goal in the first period were the only reasons why the Sachems were deadlocked, 1-1, heading into the final 15 minutes. And that's when the Sachems flipped the switch, finding an extra gear and potting three unanswered goals behind Danvers goaltender Seth Kamens to take a 4-1 victory before their home crowd.

The Sachems' victory left the Northeastern North standings a dead heat between Danvers (12-4-0, 10-3-0), Saugus (10-5-2, 9-2-2), and Winthrop (10-5-2, 9-2-2), all on 20 points heading into the season's home stretch. It was also the Sachems' first win over Danvers in three tries this season.

"That's what we've been waiting for, that third period," said Natalucci afterward. "We needed to just outwork them. You know what you're going to get when you face them. They're going to work for 45 minutes, and we needed to outwork them for 15. And that's what we did. That was huge for us."

For Danvers, it was an opportunity lost, as the Falcons have now lost two straight after a torrid 10-game winning streak that vaulted them to the top of the standings.

"We're just playing good enough, and you can't play good enough to win," Brown said. "You've got to be better than good. And come down the stretch, against quality teams. You've got to play great. And we didn't play great. We only played good."

Asked if he felt the game was one that got away, Brown replied: "I don't think it got away. It went their way. Credit them. They found a way to get it done, and we didn't."

In the opening period, though, the Falcons did play great, consistently outworking the Sachems and pelting shots at Hegarty. The senior netminder was up to the task, blunting several quality Danvers bids.

"He's a big kid, he covers a lot of the net," Natalucci said. "When he comes out and challenges (the shooter), he's tough to beat."

Saugus got its break at the 7:56 mark of the first. Sachem defenseman Nick Sweeney poked the puck to Tait, who broke in alone on Kamen before calmly firing his shot 5-hole to give Saugus a 1-0 lead on its second shot of the night.

"It was a spark for the team," Tait said. "We needed something to happen, and finally the chance came."

Danvers' Joe Strangie narrowly missed knotting the game moments later, but he scuffed his backdoor bid at the left post, sending the puck just wide on the Saugus net.

"It comes down to opportunities," Brown said. "You play a high school game, it's only 45 minutes. The opportunities are few and far between. They took advantage of them, and we didn't."

However, Danvers held an 11-3 shot advantage after the first 15, and finally tied the game at 4:07 of the middle stanza. After Paul D'Orlando kept the puck in play by the right face-off dot, Jay Calcagno got off a quick snap shot that beat Hegarty short side, glancing off the right post and into the net.

Danvers kept the pressure on, and Hegarty had to come up big on Kevin Hodgkins backhand bid, flashing out the left pad to keep the puck out of the net. The Falcons third line of Calcagno, D'Orlando and Hodgins were flying, but the Sachems kept throwing bodies in front of shots, and pucks that did get through kept hitting Hegarty.

With 10 minutes to go in the third, the Sachems went on a power play, and cashed in. Drew Oxley ripped a shot fro the point that Kamens stopped but couldn't control. Tait drove the net, and after taking two whacks at the puck, buried it past Kamens on his third attempt for a 2-1 Saugus lead at 6:28.

For Danvers, the walls caved in during an 11-second stretch four minutes later. Christopher Sanderson was Johnny on the Spot when Kamens deposited a gift on the goal line. Saugus 's Guy Carpillo snapped a shot that Kamens appeared to have cleanly in his glove, but the puck slipped out and knuckled over his shoulder, landing behind him. The opportunistic Sanderson wasted no time tapping it into the open net.

Eleven seconds later, Saugus converted on a terrific 2-on-1, when Kurt Rodrigues drove hard down the left wing before scorching a pass across the crease, which Anthony Cieri slipped under Kamens for the 4-1 final.

"The last couple of practices, we've been going really hard, and we showed it out there," Tait said. "We've just got to keep up what we've been doing, and hopefully make a run. We'll build off this game, and keep going."

His coach agreed. "We knew, down low, it was going to be real difficult to get shots, and it was all about second effort down there. That's what we did," said Natalucci. "Saige's goal on the power play was second effort. The third goal was second effort. We had to drive the net. They make it difficult."

"We knew in the last 15 minutes we were going to have to outwork them if we were going to win this hockey game tonight, and we did," he said. "We battled, all night. I've got a lot of seniors in there, and they knew if we wanted a shot at the conference, we needed two (points). If we want a shot at the conference, we needed this one."

Danvers could take some consolation in outshooting the Sachems, 26-12, and knowing that they carried the play for the majority of the game. But to make a difference in the post-season, they'll have to finish as well as they start.

"The message is we. We stick together. We do it together," said Brown. "We'll get back to where we need to be. We'll get back on track. We're a good hockey team. We've done good things all year long. We know we can attain those things."

Saugus, Tewksbury advance to D2 North final

March, 9, 2011
NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. -- Tewksbury head coach Derek Doherty said he didn’t give any extra words of encouragement to his top forward before his team’s 6-1 dominating win against seventh-seeded Beverly, in the Division 2 North semifinal on Tuesday at the Chelmsford Forum.

There was no pregame speech, no extra allowance or even an extra serving of mashed potatoes at the dinner table thrown his way.

The sixth-seeded Redmen’s top forward is Derek Doherty’s son, Ryan, and the senior forward jumped right out of his playoff scoreless streak all on his own in grand fashion with a three-goal-game to send Tewksbury to its first sectional final since 2008.

“I said Ryan it’s my birthday can you give me a present please,” said a laughing Derek Doherty, whose Redmen (17-5-1) face Saugus on Friday night. “We don’t really talk about it. I’m Dad with him and it’s go take the garbage or let’s sit down and talk about schools.

“We are really a tight-nit group inside (the locker room),” he continued. “Everything that we talk about here is with each other. I don’t grab Ryan separately and say that you’ve got to do this, you’ve got do to that.”

The younger Doherty seemed to respond like he got some good old fatherly advice though as he scored two pretty unassisted goals.

Doherty’s first goal, which proved to be the game-winner, came at 8:26 of the second period. He used a series of moves to get around his defender, and as he made his move back to center in front of the Panthers’ goalie he fell down. But the rejuvenated goal scorer was able to get a stick on the puck as he was falling to the ice for what was then a 2-0 lead.

Beverly (16-6-1) got back to within a goal and had the man advantage with 2:14 seconds left in the second period, but Ryan Doherty took that advantage away when he buried a short-handed goal at 2:11 off a nice feed from Derek Petti.

“We come out every game the same way,” Ryan Doherty said. “Whether I score or Derek (Petti) scores it doesn’t matter. As long as the puck goes in the net I’m happy.”

Petti, Doherty and Frank Mazzei, who played parts of the game together on the front line, all set the tone offensively for the Redmen in a convincing third period to close out the win.

There were a lot of questions about what kind of team Saugus was heading into the D-2 North tournament. The Sachems only lost one game in the regular season, but with seven ties the skeptics had to wonder if this was a team that could hang tough with anyone, or a team who couldn’t put teams away.

The No. 5 Sachems (15-1-7) answered a few of those questions on Tuesday night when they eliminated No. 1 Wilmington (18-3-2) with a convincing 5-1 victory in the North semifinals in the first game at the Chelmsford Forum.

Saugus head coach Jeff Natalucci led some of his feelings out after the loss.

“I told these guys that we have one loss this year,” said Natalucci, whose team will face Tewksbury in the North finals on Friday. “We felt we really haven’t gotten the respect that we deserve. No one was really talking about us coming in to this tournament. We have one loss all season, but everybody wants to talk about the seven ties. … We got our chance tonight to show people.”

The Sachems showed everyone off the bat what kind of offense they possess with two goals in the first three minutes of the game, and three overall in the period before Wilmington could even respond.

Saige Tait scored 34 seconds in to the game, and Kurt Roderigues had a hat-trick and an assist.

Roderigues showed great awareness for his surroundings on two of his goals as he banged in rebounds off big blasts from his teammates.

“I just like to get open in front of the net and I let my teammates take the shot,” Roderigues said. “Hopefully I get the opening and put it home.”

The junior, who is one of the smaller players on the ice, showed a little bit of feistiness when he capitalized on a loose puck in front and stole it away from Wildcats’ goalie Joe Aucoin for his second of the night and a big 4-1 at 7:58 of the second period.

“The defenseman bobbled it and it came out front,” Roderigues said. “I just picked it up at the post and the goalie didn’t seem ready. He left his five-hole open and I slipped it through.”

Passing thoughts: Kasabuski Tournament

December, 30, 2010
SAUGUS, Mass. – No. 1 Malden Catholic hockey flexed its muscles throughout the Kasabuski Christmas Tournament. After throttling St. Bernard’s, 18-0, on Tuesday, the Lancers capped off the tournament championship with a convincing 8-0 win over No. 6 St. Mary’s of Lynn Wednesday night.

Malden Catholic (5-0-0) had six players finish with multi-point games, including tournament MVP Brendan Collier (2 G, 2A) and Ryan Fitzgerald (2G, 2A), who led with four points apiece. Mike Vecchione and Mike Iovanna each had three-point games while Colin MacGillivray and Nick Roberto (2 G) each had two points.

St. Mary’s (2-1-2) endured a tough first period, when the Lancers scored five times. Malden Catholic struck for three goals within 32 seconds of each other midway through the first.

“In the first period, I thought we really only played seven or eight really good minutes,” Lancers head coach Chris Serino said. “Fortunately, we put four, five goals in during that time.”

While Malden Catholic’s is indeed potent offensively, Serino also reminded that you cannot overlook the efforts of his defensemen. The Lancer blue-liners, led by the top pair of Connor Evangelista and MacGillivray, were instrumental in limiting the Spartans to nine shots on goaltender Pat Young.

“I thought we did a pretty good job in our own end, getting the puck out,” Serino added.

“People look at our forwards and our top line, but we’ve got pretty good defensemen, too. I think especially our top four are as good as anybody.”

On a night when many things didn’t go well for the Spartans, bench boss Mark Lee was encouraged by the way his team competed in the third period, holding the Lancers off the board.

“Every mistake you make, they’re there to capitalize on it,” Lee said. “Each one of their goals was a breakdown by us. They’re one of the most talented teams I’ve seen in years.

“But I’m very proud of our third period, we came out and played like men. We skated up and down with them and we had some chances. I’m happy with how we finished the game, taking the score away.”

It was a banner day all-around for Serino as his alma mater captured the Division 2 championship earlier in the day.

Saugus blanked Lynnfield, 3-0, on the strength of a pair of two-point performances from Kurt Roderigues and Drew Oxley.

“We’ve had some games this year that we’ve learned from,” Sachems head coach Jeff Natalucci said. “We were up 3-0 against Winthrop and we let them back in because we stopped working, but tonight we didn’t stop working. Hopefully, we continue to grow and go from here.”

After Ralph Pagliucca put the Sachems (2-0-3) ahead 1-0 in the seond period, Roderigues added some cushion, beating talented Lynnfield netminder Craig Cataldo on a snipe from the circle. Roderigues was set in motion on the play by a laser cross-ice pass through the neutral zone form Oxley.

Roderigues later returned the favor, setting up Oxley’s goal three minutes into the third period.

Saugus showed some grit in the tournament, working back from a two-goal deficit against Pentucket on Tuesday to earn a 5-2 win and advance to Wednesday’s final. The Sachems also played with plenty of jam with an aggressive forecheck. And it would be hard to recall loose puck in the corner that wasn’t first fished out by a Saugus skater.

Even Roderigues’ goal was started by some dirty work done in the corner. Freshman Steven Kay snaked the puck out of the Sachems’ end, pushing the puck to Oxley who let Roderigues off to the races.

All encouraging signs for their first-year head coach.

Earlier in the day, No. 5 Austin Prep collected a 4-0 win over Catholic Central foe St. Bernard’s in the Division 1 consolation game.

However, the Kasabuski tournament just reinforced the fact that the Catholic Central is shaping up to be a very even three-horse race this season.

On Tuesday night, the Cougars skated to a 1-1 tie with St. Mary’s (the game is counted as a tie in MIAA standings), but the Spartans had the last laugh, scoring with 50 seconds remaining in the overtime period to set up their matchup with Malden Catholic. The tightly-battled game has been indicative of the early season meetings between the Catholic Central powers. Before Christmas, No. 4 Arlington Catholic skated to a 4-4 tie with St. Mary’s. So no definitive favorite has emerged in one of the state’s most tightly contested conferences.

“It’s nice to take three points away from the tournament, but we were still a little sloppy,” Austin Prep head coach Louis Finocchiaro said. “There are still things we have to work on. We can be a little careless with the puck at times. But we’re a young team and you expect those things to happen.”