Newburyport ousts Saugus boys hockey

STONEHAM – For two and a half periods on Thursday, the Saugus hockey team hung right with Newburyport in the opening round of the Division 2 North tourney at Stoneham Arena.But several missed chances in the first two periods proved costly as the Clippers scored twice in the final 4:58 to take a 5-1 win and move on to Sunday’s quarterfinals at Salem State against Gloucester (2:30).”We played hard and it’s not indicative of a 5-1 game,” Saugus coach Chris Connors said. “We had plenty of opportunities and just couldn’t convert.”The Sachems (9-8-3) hung in with Newburyport, winner of seven straight coming in, thanks to a strong defense that stopped the fast-skating Clippers from free-wheeling through open ice.”We did a good job of taking their speed away and locking their wings for two periods,” Connors said.The two teams played to a stalemate late into the opening period before Clipper sniper Derek McCoy netted his 20th goal of the season on an unassisted marker with 2:41 left on the clock.Saugus’ strong defense continued to befuddle the Clippers in the second period, along with strong goaltending from Paul Essery.”Paul played phenomenal,” Connors said. “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”Once again, however, Newburyport found a way to get a goal late in a period. This time it was sophomore Gaven LaValley who did the damage, assisted by David Freeman, with 4:39 left to make it 2-0 after two.Newburyport seemingly put the Sachems down for the count early in the third when LaValley was on the scene again, this time with help from McCoy and Derek Freeman, for his second goal of the season at 5:49 to give the Clippers a 3-0 lead.But the Sachems showed they weren’t quite ready to go down without a fight in their first tourney appearance since the 2005 Division 2 state finals.Defenseman Craig Cooper’s bomb from the blue line, assisted by Joe Vecchione, sailed past freshman goalie Anthony Federico 51 seconds after LaValley’s goal to cut the gap to two.”The momentum started to shift there and we had lots of opportunities. But we just didn’t score,” Connors said.Those missed chances proved critical as McCoy took advantage of a flukish bounce with 4:58 remaining to score his second of the night to make it 4-1. Collin Cusack closed out the scoring, assisted by Kevin Holmes and Kyle McElroy, with just over a minute remaining.”We ran into a red-hot team, certainly, but we definitely gave the fans their money’s worth for two periods,” Connors said. “I am so proud of the seniors that we had this year. They were instrumental in putting Saugus hockey back on the map.”

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