Boston High School: Mike Guleserian

Recap: No. 13 Burlington 3, No. 20 Wilmington 3

February, 1, 2014
WILMINGTON, Mass. — With four state titles between the two teams in the last two seasons, there is really no surprise that nothing was settled between Burlington and Wilmington, Saturday at Ristuccia Arena – or in their 1-1 tie back on New Year’s Day.

Freshman Jason Collins pounced on a loose puck and unleashed a wicked slap shot to the top right corner past Burlington goalie Mike Guleserian that ultimately earned the Wildcats a point.

Wilmington goaltender Drew Foley stopped Burlington’s Shane O’Halloran on a breakaway with 1:34 left to preserve the 3-3 tie for Wilmington, which was without head coach Steve Scanlon, who was hospitalized with an infection.

“We came back and showed some character in that third period and battled through,” said Wilmington assistant coach Mark DiGiovanni. “It is always a battle with Burlington. We look forward to playing these guys and our guys always give our best against them.”

Wilmington got on the board just 1:54 into the game on a power play when Jim Davey’s point shot was re-directed by Luke Foley past Guleserian for a 1-0 lead.

The Red Devils would answer midway through the first when Kyle Kurtz tipped home a Josh Boulos shot to tie the game at one.

Anthony Nikolopolous gave the Devils the lead just 37 seconds into the second period when he cleaned up the rebound of a Robby McLean bid.

Wilmington needed a spark heading into the third period and got it from senior Cody McGowan who battled a puck loose at the left face-off circle and fired a dart over Guleserian’s shoulder from a tough angle.

Burlington answered just 45 seconds later when Tommy Hanafin crashed the net and finished off a pass from Ryan Sheldon to give the Devils the lead before Wilmington’s fine freshman evened things up.

Burlington held on to the point fighting off two Wilmington power plays with less than four minutes in the game.

It was both teams’ sixth tie of the season.

“We have a lot of ties and it was a tough tie for us because they tied us,” said Burlington coach Bob Conceison. “It was a tough game between two pretty even teams. We took a couple penalties in the third period that we survived but we need to do a better job of that.”

Foley comes up big: With Wilmington on a late game power play, Drew Foley had to emerge with his biggest save of the day.

Burlington defenseman Shane O’Halloran who was being used as a forward on the penalty kill broke free on a clean breakaway and busted in on Foley who closed the pads on O’Halloran to keep the game even for the Wildcats.

“You are always biting your nails when you see them go down on a breakaway,” added DiGiovanni. “But you also have a sense of confidence in the back of your head too that you have Drew (Foley) in there. He will win games for you and he will keep you in games.”

Foley finished with 25 saves on the day, but none was bigger than his last.

Surprise visit: On Thursday, Burlington High legend Jay Pandolfo officially announced his retirement from the NHL after 15 seasons and two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.

Ironcially, Pandolfo ended up on skates on Thursday visiting the Burlington Ice Palace and his old high school hockey coach, Bob Conceison, and took a twirl around the old barn with the team.

“We stay in touch and he said he was going to come down and skate and ironically it was the day he announced his retirement,” said Conceison.

For a Burlington team that has been struggling to score goals, who better to lean on than Pandolfo, who led Burlington to its first Super Eight appearance back in 1993, which was their only appearance until the 2008-09 team that lost in the final to Catholic Memorial.

“He pointed some things out to our forwards,” added Conceison. “I wanted him to work with them on getting to the net. He is a just a great guy and he sat in on some meetings and talked to the kids in the locker room as a group.”

Pandolfo’s retired No. 9 hangs in the entrance of the Ice Palace.

Recap: No. 13 Burlington 2, No. 20 Reading 0

January, 27, 2014
BURLINGTON, Mass. — Nearly six weeks ago, the Burlington Red Devils walked out of Burbank Arena in Reading with their heads down after being on the wrong end of a 6-1 thumping at the hands of Reading.

Since then, the Devils have gone on an 11-game unbeaten streak (8-0-3) including a methodical 2-0 shutout of the Rockets on Monday night at the Ice Palace behind a second straight shutout by senior goaltender Mike Guleserian.

“It was an important win for our kids because they handled us very easily back in December,” Burlington coach Bob Conceison said. “I think it was important to have a good performance tonight and I thought we played a real good all-around game and I thought Mike (Guleserian) was tremendous.”

Senior captain Joey Scali scored the game’s first goal late in the first period when he buried the rebound of a Josh Boulos point shot past Reading goalie, Ian Lapham.

Scali, who went without a goal in the first seven games of the season, would also set up the Devil’s second goal.

He cruised into the offensive zone down the right wing board and sent a cross ice pass to Robby McLean who ripped a slap shot inside the left post from a tough angle below the left face-off circle to give Burlington a cushion with 8:22 left in the game.

“I thought this was a big win for us,” said Scali. “I have really meshed with my line mates over the last few games. We got to keep it going. We have a big stretch of games coming up.”

After mustering just three first period shots, the Rockets turned up the pressure in the second and third periods but could not solve Guleserian (20 saves) who continues to provide the Devils a solid backstop.

Rockets sputtering: The Rockets are on a streak of their own but headed in the wrong direction, as the loss put the always respected Rockets at 0-5-2 over their last seven games and 6-7-2 overall.

Make no mistake about it, the Rockets play one of the toughest schedules in the state for a public school team but their recent lack of punch has coach Mark Doherty looking for answers.

“We are getting chances but are just not finishing,” said Doherty. “Their goalie was strong tonight and they are always tough in their barn. I thought we had a good amount of chances but we just need to keep working at it.”

The Rockets have seven games to turn things around and will be a real tough out should they land in the Division I North tournament.

Line of defense: While Guleserian continues his strong season, the Red Devils four defensemen have provided little breathing room for opponents.

Having two shutdown pairs of defensemen is a luxury for coach Bob Conceison.

Senior captain Adam Crowley is paired with sophomore Shane O’Halloran while junior Mike Bibbey and sophomore Josh Boulos provide a second shut down pairing. They were all part of last year’s Division I state champions and their experience has stabilized the Devils defensive zone.

The numbers bear out the impressive results as Burlington is allowing just 1.6 goals per game and have allowed opponents to score three or more goals just twice this season.

“They have been so good in front of me,” said Guleserian. “They make my job a whole lot easier back there and I am lucky to have those guys playing in front of me.”

Recap: No. 14 Burlington 1, No. 15 Winchester 1

January, 18, 2014
BURLINGTON, Mass. -- When senior goaltender Mike Guleserian emerged from the Burlington locker room after the Devils’ 1-1 tie with Winchester, a familiar face awaited.

Derek DeCastro, the backbone to the Red Devils’ back-to-back Division 1 state titles the last two seasons, shared a handshake and some words of encouragement for Guleserian whose best game of the season earned the Devils a point in a Middlesex League crossover game.

“He was such a good goaltender,” said Guleserian of DeCastro. “The biggest thing I learned from him was to remain focused and not lose your poise. I learned a lot from him and I used that tonight.”

He needed that poise when the Sachems offense woke up in the third period, firing 13 shots with Guleserian turning all aside but one.

Burlington got on the board first just 4:17 into the game when senior Shawn Bowler scored his first of the season, barreling down the left wing and firing a wrist shot that broke through the catching glove of Sachems goalie James Offner.

“I told the seniors someone was going to have to step up and get a big goal tonight,” said Burlington coach Bob Conceison. “Shawn had a nice burst and fired a nice hard shot. That was big for him and us.”

Winchester came out of the gates sluggish in both the first and second periods (just 13 combined shots), but brought the pressure in the third period and cashed in with Nolan Redler scoring shorthanded while finishing off a two-on-none breakaway feed from Brendan Greene with 4:50 left in the third period.

“We played well in the third period there was no question about that,” said Winchester coach Matt Spang. “We just need to be more consistent in our approach in what we bring to the game. That is a good team down there.”

Rendered defenseless: The Red Devils did a nice job defensively keeping the Sachems top line of Redler, Greene, and David Troiano on the perimeter and limiting their chances.

However, all it takes is one break and those Sachems snipers can strike at any time.

To wit, with Burlington clinging to a 1-0 late in the third period while on the power play, an ill-advised pinch at the blue line resulted in a two-on-none breakaway with Redler and Greene skating in alone on Guleserian. Greene held the puck just long enough before sliding a pass to Redler who beat Guleserian to the blocker side.

“Those two guys going in on a two on none are pretty good,” said Spang. “I will take that most of the time.”

Rivalry renewed: Many would point to the Division 1A semi-final game in 2009 when Burlington beat Winchester, 1-0, as the launching point of this continued rivalry.

And now, despite being in opposite divisions of the Middlesex League, the Winchester-Burlington hockey rivalry continues to grow.

There was no mention by either team of Burlington’s dramatic 2-1 shootout victory in last year’s Division 1 North final at the Tsongas Arena.

With the teams not scheduled to play again in the regular season, one can only hope they meet again in the postseason and add another chapter to a growing rivalry.