WOBURN, Mass. – The Chelmsford boy’s hockey team has been used to dealing with adversity this season. The team has been without its coach, Mike McGrath, who has been battling cancer, making Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime victory over Melrose that much sweeter.
“It feels good. We’ve had some off-ice stuff this year. Our team never wavered for a second. They were dealt with adversity, but I’m just so proud of how they answered,” said Chelmsford interim coach Scott Trahan.
After killing a power play to end regulation, the Lions found new life in the extra session and took advantage just 47 seconds in. Junior Mario Serra picked up a loose puck in his own zone and raced up the left side. As he was closing in on the Melrose goal he slid a backhander to the far side of the net to set off a wild celebration.
“I’d love to see what our coach is thinking right now. I bet it put a smile on his face,” Serra said with a grin on his own face.
Adding to the euphoria for the No. 10 seed was that Melrose had knocked them out of the tournament the past two winters.
“They ended our year two years in a row now so it was a good little redemption game for us,” Trahan explained.
“We were so motivated. The alumni all came and wanted it so bad because [Melrose] ended their seasons,” said Serra.
Chelmsford was under siege towards the end of the third period. Goaltender Blake Alber had to make an incredible glove save with 3:51 left to keep the score tied and then help kill off the penalty at the end of regulation.
“Our goalies have been doing that for us all season and our penalty kill has been one of our strong points,” said Trahan.
“Blake kept us in it all game. He was solid. He saved us a few times,” added Serra.
Mitch Smith gave the Lions a 1-0 lead 7:51 into the game when he sent home a loose puck off a blocked Cal Johnson shot.
Melrose, who had the territorial edge for most of the first two periods, finally evened the score with 39 seconds left in the second. Jack Hickey corralled a loose puck and lifted a backhander over a scrum of bodies for the Red Raiders’ only goal of the game.
The Lions take on No. 2 Newburyport in a quarterfinal matchup Saturday in Stoneham at 5 p.m.