Boston High School: Matt Lane

D3 Central final: Shrewsbury 4, Wachusett 1

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
1:49
AM ET
FITCHBURG, Mass. -- There were little reminders left everywhere. Shrewsbury head coach Steve Turnblom made it a habit to remind his team about the past.

So too, did his assistant coaches. Previous articles on unforgiving postseason losses to Wachusett were taped to locker room walls for all eyes to see and ponder.

To know the history of the Colonials' underachieving battles against the Mountaineers in the Central Mass. Division 3 tournament in recent years is to understand that Wachusett has owned Shrewsbury. In the last three seasons, the Colonials have been bounced out of the playoffs by Wachusett.

So in Monday night's Central Mass. Division 3 final between the two powers, questions lingered as to whether or not history would reap its ugly head yet again on Shrewsbury or would the script be different this time around?

As a result, the Colonials chose the latter, scoring a pair of goals in each of the first two periods and, in the process, posted a 4-1 triumph at the Wallace Civic Center. The win was the Colonials third over Wachusett this year, after beating them twice during the regular season.

No. 1 Shrewsbury (19-2-1) moves on to the state semifinals where it will meet defending state champion Westfield (14-5-3) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.

"Everyone was telling me all week that you can't beat a team three times in a season so I was a little worried," admitted Turnblom. "But I knew if we came to play we would have a good shot. It is very impressive for these kids to beat them three times in a season."

To get over the hurdle of believing they could defeat the No. 3 Mountaineers (16-5-2) when it mattered most, the Colonials went out and did just that. Goals by Tyler O'Keefe and Cole Amback (on the power play) at 14:01 and 14:57, respectively, of the opening period had Shrewsbury on top 2-0 heading into the first intermission.

After going toe-to-toe against its Quinn Conference rivals for the first 13 minutes of this contest, giving up those two late markers sent Wachusett into the dressing room a deflated and dejected bunch.

That demeanor seemed to carry itself over into the middle frame. At 2:31, junior Joseph Buduo, taking a diagonal pass from Dave Belbin, sent a shot into the top right corner of the net to extend the Colonials advantage to 3-0. Five minutes later, Buduo would answer the call again. This time the forward gathered a bouncing puck in front of Wachusett starting goaltender Jake Strasser (16 saves on 20 shots) and hoisted a quick wrist shot past the senior's catching glove.

"We just went out there and played as hard as we could," Buduo said. "We wanted to crash the net on Strasser because he likes to play out a lot. That team has knocked us out of the playoffs the past three years so getting a little revenge tonight really feels good."

Following Buduo's second tally, Strasser was pulled in favor Andrew Carter. The junior managed to hold down the fort for the remainder of the game, stopping all 8 shots he faced. By then, though, the damage had already been done. The Mountaineers offense struggled mightily throughout, unable to gain much consistency with the puck as Shrewsbury's defense and forwards swarmed all over them once they got across the red line.

Wachusett was also playing shorthanded. Defenseman Matt Cappucci did not dress due to a concussion. Sam Pridotkas, another defenseman, received a season-ending disqualification for a hitting from behind penalty in an first round game against Westboro. In addition, center Brian Boulette was home with flu-like symptoms. Never one to make excuses, Wachusett head coach Matt Lane said that was not the difference in the outcome of this one.

"The kids who came to the rink tonight gave it all they had," he said. "I told them for the last 22 minutes of this game it was 1-0 us and we held them without a score. But Shrewsbury caught fire at the end of the first and later in the second period with a couple of nice goals. But we cannot and will not make excuses. Our guys played their hearts out. We never seemed to recover from the goal they got with 3 seconds left in the first period. They move the puck well all night and are always cycling to the slot and it's tough to stay with them. We just couldn't break the ice against them."

With less than two minutes remaining in the second, Wachusett senior forward Marc Happy scored a power-play goal but it did little to rattle Shrewsbury. The Colonials blanketed the Mountaineers over the last 15 minutes, limiting them to just five shots.

"We had two articles posted in our locker room showing last year's loss to them," said Turnblom, referring to his club's 2-1 overtime defeat in the CMass semifinals. "I told the kids to remember the tears and all the sadness they felt after that loss and take it to the ice tonight because they had a good shot to win. That was certainly momentum for us. We got those two goals in the first period to give us the lead, and once we got those, we tried to play solid defense after that and I felt we pretty-much achieved that."

No. 22 Shrewsbury eyes D3 state title

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
9:58
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- It was right around the midway point of last year's hockey season when people began taking notice of Shrewsbury High's upstart team.

The Colonials were being reminded often on how good it looked and how great they could be. But it wasn't too long after when the Colonials, themselves, started buying into the hype — perhaps a bit too much.

You could make a case that Shrewsbury's top-scoring line of a year ago was as good as any in the state; it was certainly best in Central Mass. They were a multi-talented group with an uncanny ability of moving the puck around on a dime inside an opponent's defensive zone. The trio worked so beautifully together that they combined for an eye-catching 125 points.

The belief was that Shrewsbury had enough talent to whisk past its competitors in district play and would finish it off with a MIAA state championship trophy in tow.

It didn’t go quite according to script.

In last February's Division 3 Central Mass. semifinal played at Fitchburg's Wallace Civic Center, the favored Colonials endured a gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss to Wachusett Regional. Suddenly, in the span of a millisecond, all of the talk, predictions and championship dreams had vanished.

Even today, almost a year later, the loss continues to gnaw at them. But instead of feeling sorry for themselves, the Colonials are using it as motivation.

Just a month into this season and it appears as though the motivation is working.

The Colonials, ranked No. 24 in ESPN Boston’s MIAA Top 25 poll, have sprinted out of the starting block with reckless abandon. Following Monday night's win over Hudson, Shrewsbury presently sits at 8-0. They are averaging over seven goals per game and have yet to be seriously tested. For this team, which last won a state championship in 2009, it has an agenda to meet and it won't conclude until they are the last ones standing come March inside TD Garden.

"That loss to Wachusett last year is what is driving us this year," said junior forward and leading scorer Dan Quinlivan (11 goals, 6 assists), who is paired with twin brother Jack and junior Trevor Shea to form one of Shrewsbury's four solid lines. "You never want to go out that way, especially in overtime like we did. It was a lesson learned."

Last year, the Quinlivans were teamed with first-line center Dave Belbin in forming one of region’s most formidable trios. The chemistry between them, not to mention their speed, puck-handling accuracy and precision-like passing skills were crisp and fluent.

This season, third-year head coach Steve Turnblom made a surprise move when he decided to tweak his lines a bit in an attempt to get more scoring production from other team members. Belbin now anchors a line with fellow senior Derek Dell'Olio and sophomore Adam Twitchell.

"Moving guys around has helped us a lot," sophomore defenseman Matt Dillon said. "Last year Dave, Jack and Dan were putting up most of the points. This year we have Dave's line and then we have Jack and Dan's line. Our third and fourth lines are contributing as well. The depth we have in all four of our lines has helped out quite a bit."

Dan Quinlivan said, "Last year the better programs had players who could shut our first line down at times. This year we have goal scorers on every line."

With each shift, Shrewsbury appears to be playing with a purpose. Its tempo is fast and furious the entire 45 minutes. Its hybrid offensive style has left a few opponents scrambling for the bench in an effort to catch their breath.

"Our speed is a factor no doubt," said Belbin, who netted 22 goals and added 20 assists a year ago. "But at the same time we knew we needed to be more-sound defensively. I think that is where we have stepped it up this year (having allowed just 12 goals). Last year the focus was on scoring points. This year, there is more attention being paid to keeping teams off the boards, create some havoc in our defensive zone and finish off our checks. The points will come off of that."

With upcoming games against such powers as St. John's (Shrewsbury), Wachusett, Groton-Dunstable and Longmeadow, the Colonials realize they have the firepower to win a state title. But the Colonials can also expect to see the best from every opponent they face. No matter the record.

"We know we are going to get everyone's A-gamem which I think is good because our guys will be ready for it," Turnblom said. "However, there is that old cliché that anyone can beat anyone. We certainly understand that. How we get better from game to game is the key for us. It's all about the little things you need to do to get better as a team. Going out and slapping teams around, but being sloppy in doing it, does us no good.

“Eventually that will come back to bite you as we know, especially when you are in a big game against a Wachusett, or St. John's, or during the playoffs. We still need to tighten things up at both ends of the ice and keep our minds focused in every game that we play. It is so important for all of us to know exactly what each one is doing out there."

Perhaps, most importantly, there is no trace of selfishness to be found in Shrewsbury’s game. To a player, all have a particular role and they execute.

"Come playoff time everyone should understand their roles here," said winger turned center Jack Quinlivan, who paced Shrewsbury with 25 goals last season. "Everyone will get their shot at some point, you just don't know when. But when that opportunity does come you have to be ready for it."

An area that plagued the Colonials a year ago was an inconsistency in goal.

As productive as Shrewsbury's offense was, its goaltenders were allowing nearly as much at the other end of the ice. It was an issue Turnblom knew he needed to address once the season came to an end. This year, he has three goaltenders, all of whom, he says are capable of stoning the opposition.

At present, seniors Will Shipman and Matt Andrews are the front-runners with sophomore Shane Gorrie not far behind. Combined, the team’s goals against average sits below 2.00.

Andrews came on board this year after transferring from nearby St. John's of Shrewsbury. Dropping down from a Division 1 level program to Division 3 did raise a few eyebrows but Andrews stands by his decision.

"I've known most of the guys on this team for a very long time," Andrews said. "This was something I really wanted to do. I hang out with most of these guys all the time. It wasn't really a sports thing for me but more about being with my friends. It's a joy playing with all of them again and being apart of this team."

Turnblom felt he also needed to shore up his team's defensive play. New addition Sean Hallice, who spent the last couple of seasons playing juniors before opting out and joining Shrewsbury this season, has been nothing short of spectacular. Not only can the senior shadow an opposing club's top offensive threat, but has also proven to be a valuable commodity offensively, registering six goals and seven assists. He, along with Dillon, Cole Vincequere and Cole Ambach have given the Colonials' defense some much-needed depth. In addition, their ability to transition the puck swiftly up ice to the forwards has been well-received.

"Between our offense and defense it gives you a good feeling of confidence in all of our lines," Hallice said. "You quickly realize that if I screw up or someone else screws up we all have each other's backs."

Said Jack Quinlivan, "The defense has been very good at getting the puck up to forwards quickly. We constantly try to suck the life out of teams with our speed. If teams can't stay with us they eventually wear down."

There are some pessimists who are quick to point out that the majority of Shrewsbury's schedule offers little challenge. Even though the Colonials traditionally play in the most-competitive Division 3 conference (the Quinn) in Central Mass., there are some weaknesses this year. Hudson, Marlborough and Auburn, all of whom have enjoyed success in the past, are in rebuilding modes and not expected to contend this year. Therefore, Shrewsbury will rely heavily on its upcoming confrontations against conference foe Wachusett (twice), St. John's, Groton-Dunstable and Longmeadow to prepare them for what lies ahead.

"You cannot take anyone lightly no matter who we play," Dillon said. "You have to treat every team the same and be ready to play every game."

Wachusett has been a thorn in the Colonials' sides the past few seasons. The Mountaineers, who fell to eventual state champ Westfield in last year's state semifinal, have not lost to Shrewsbury in three years. They look to keep that trend going when the two clubs square off next Saturday.

"We realize it will be a difficult task to try and stop a team that is averaging nearly eight goals a game," Wachusett coach Matt Lane said. "They have something like 10 different players who have already scored multiple goals. We know it'll take a strong defensive effort and outstanding goaltending on our part to stay in the game with them."

Should the Colonials stumble a bit during the season, it still appears likely they will have sewn up a playoff spot by month's end. When this does occur, don't expect them to rest on their laurels.

The team's first priority is to be the No. 1 seed in next month's Central Mass. tournament and begin, what they hope, is a solid postseason run that will carry them to Boston this time around.

"We know we have a good team," Ambach said. "But we can't go out there thinking we are best team because we all know what happened last year. We are always looking for ways to improve. We just need to keep things on an even keel throughout the entire season and not get too far ahead of ourselves."

D3 Central: Wachusett 3, G-D 2 (SO)

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
3:26
AM ET
FITCHBURG, Mass. _ During his post game interview Monday night, Wachusett Regional hockey coach Matt Lane repeatedly mentioned the words perseverance and luck in his attempt to describe the Mountaineers’ heart-stopping 3-2 shootout victory over Groton-Dunstable in the Central Mass. Division 3 championship played at the Wallace Civic Center.

You would be hard pressed to find another hockey game that held as much drama as this one entailed.

Groton-Dunstable, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, had played like world beaters all season long running through the regular season with reckless abandon. Having captured the Division 3A state crown a year ago, the Crusaders were moved up to Division 3 status at the start of this season and appeared primed for another state title.

The Mountaineers, a No. 2 seed, didn’t have the overall depth and talent that Groton-Dunstable did. However on any given night you never know what might happen. Monday night just happened to be one of those nights.

Hanging with the Crusaders through 45 minutes of regulation time plus an additional 12 minutes of overtime, this contest still remained deadlocked at 2-2. MIAA rules state if nothing is settled at that point, a shootout will ensue. In the shootout, Groton-Dunstable went first. Senior forward CJ Kenny, who gave his team a brief 1-0 lead back in the first period, scored on his chance beating Mountaineer goaltender Jake Strasser stick side. Wachusett’s first attempt was stopped by Crusader junior goalie Jason Robes. Adam Kmetz, who briefly gave the Crusaders a 2-1 lead just 17 seconds into the second period, went next for Groton-Dunstable but was stoned by Strasser.

Having scored both of his team’s goals in regulation, Wachusett junior forward Marc Happy was given the next opportunity and made it count after his shot bounced off of Robes’ stick, fluttering over his head and into the back of net to make it 1-1. After neither team scored on their next chance, Mountaineer sophomore Brian Boulette skated in and beat Robes with a backhander putting his club ahead. Everything now fell squarely on the shoulders of Josh Rabbit. A goal would extend the shootout but a stop would finish the Crusaders season. Rabbit skated in and tried to go five-hole on Strasser, but the junior got the pads closed just in time to seal the puck sparking a wild and euphoric celebration on the ice by Mountaineer players and coaches.

Wachusett (17-3-2) will face Westfield (16-2-2) in the state semifinal to be played here on Thursday beginning at 7:40 p.m. The Mountaineers and Bombers met twice during the regular season, splitting the series.

“Perseverance and a little bit of luck,” said Lane, his team claiming its first Central Mass. championship after losing to Hudson the previous two years in the title game. “Groton-Dunstable outplayed us for most of this game. They are an excellent hockey team. People don’t give them as much credit as they deserve. But somehow, someway we managed to pull this one out of the hat tonight.”

The Crusaders (16-2-4) out-shot the Mountaineers by almost a 2-1 ratio (47-32). Had it not been for the brilliant play of Strasser, who started the season as a back up, the final outcome could have been much different. Strasser was the hard-luck loser in net during last year‘s overtime loss to Hudson in Central Mass. title tilt so playing in a pressure-packed situation was nothing new to him.

“I love the playoffs,” said Strasser, who put forth a 45 save effort, making several spectacular stops along the way. “The playoffs is when I do my best. I feel I play better when I’m under pressure.”

Kenny’s goal, coming at 3:21 of the opening period put the Crusaders in front 1-0. Groton-Dunstable stayed relentless in its attack once they moved the puck inside Wachusett territory. But time and time again, Strasser continued to marvel between the pipes, keeping it a one-goal game. At 6:25 of the period however, Happy tied matters with a blast from the right corner which beat Robes (30 saves) and make 1-1.

Things stayed that way until the early seconds of the second period when Kmetz let go a shot from the low left slot that caught Strasser out of position. Seven minutes later, Happy answered again. Taking a nice centering feed from teammate Colin Bennie, Happy slipped a quick wrist shot by Robes knotting things up at 2-2.

“It doesn’t matter how we do it as long as we get the job done,” said Happy. “Groton is a big, physical team and kept knocking us around but we kept coming back. I was determined not to lose this game three years in a row and tonight we finally got it done.”

A scoreless third paved the way to overtime in which Groton-Dunstable dominated the Mountaineers, who were beginning to show signs of fatigue. In the extra stanza, the Crusaders put up 11 shots to Wachusett’s five but still nothing was settled until the shootout.

“I’m proud of every kid in this program,” said disappointed Groton-Dunstable coach Phil Rowley. “I wish things had come out differently than it did. When it comes right down to it, this was only a hockey game. There are a lot of things more tragic than losing a hockey game. Both teams played well and it was a fun game. We had our chances and didn’t hold anything back but I wish Wachusett well going forward.”

SPONSORED HEADLINES