Saugus, Medford boys hockey teams battle to a draw

Nick Sanderson made 26 saves. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

SAUGUS — Saugus goalie Nick Sanderson stood on his head Wednesday night at Kasabuski Rink, making 37 saves to force a draw with the Medford Mustangs, 0-0, in a Northeastern Conference battle. The two teams are fighting for any points they can get, as both are just a few points shy of a tournament berth.

“Nick was great out there tonight, and that’s the kind of game we needed out of him,” said Saugus coach Jeff Natalucci. “We really needed to get some points out of this one, it’s getting down to crunch time. So it was good to get the point, great effort all around by our guys.”

Medford pushed the pace for much of the game, outshooting the Sachems 37-9 in total. Mustangs goalie William Chouinard had nine saves.

“I saw a strong effort out of all our guys tonight, a lot of guys stepped up with some guys out with the flu,” said Medford coach Shawn Bates. “We played well overall and we were able to carry the pace of the game at times, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The Mustangs came out of the gate shooting, peppering Sanderson with eight shots in just the first period. They earned a power play as well, but couldn’t capitalize. The same was the case in the second period, with Medford outshooting Saugus 12-2 in that frame. Again the Mustangs earned a power play, and again Sanderson turned away every shot that came at him.

The third period was the most even in terms of shots on goal, but even then Medford outshot the Sachems 17-6. It was in the third that Sanderson made some of his most impressive saves, including a quick reaction to a wrister off a faceoff and a save made diving across the crease.

All this is not to say that Saugus didn’t have some great scoring chances of its own. In addition to asserting themselves physically all game long, the Sachems put some pressure on Chouinard in the third period. They earned their only power play of the game and got a few good shots at the net, but Saugus couldn’t bury anything.

“Our effort was there all night, I loved the effort I saw,” said Natalucci. “Our execution was off, and it needs to be better if we want to get two points out of games like this instead of one.”

With each team earning a point for the draw, it puts the two teams in slightly different positions. Medford, now 8-3-3, needs only one more point to qualify for the tournament.

“It would’ve been great to grab two points instead of one because we were hoping to get the qualifying out of the way, but that’s how it goes,” Bates said. “Hopefully we can come out next game and grab that point.”

The Mustangs will try to earn that point on Saturday against a struggling Peabody team at LoConte Rink.

The draw meant more to Saugus, as the Sachems (5-6-4) still need six more points to get in with five games remaining. That means grabbing wins against quality opponents, as teams like Danvers, Swampscott and Winthrop are still on the schedule.

“Every game is important now, there’s no getting around that,” Natalucci said. “It’s about executing out there now, but if we bring the effort that we brought tonight, I like our chances.”

The Sachems will take on Marblehead at Rockett Arena on Saturday.

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