Tough third period spells doom for Saugus

C.J. Graffeo scored a goal for the Sachems in Saturday's game. (Item File Photo)

WINTHROP– An unideal third period for the Saugus boys hockey team was the difference in Saturday afternoon’s 3-1 loss to Winthrop at Lawrence Larsen Rink.

The Sachems and Vikings entered the third period locked in a 1-1 tie but Winthrop scored twice in a three-minute span to take the lead.

“It felt like after the second goal we stopped playing,” Saugus coach Jeff Natalucci said. “I thought in the second period we really controlled play, did a lot of good things, made some good adjustments. After that second goal, we just couldn’t regroup. That’s when you have to get tougher. Facing a little adversity, we had to bear down and we didn’t.”

C.J. Graffeo scored the lone goal for Saugus on an assist from Adam Rodrigues. Sachems goalie Jack Devereaux made 16 saves.

Cory Cherico, JD Parker and Luke Evangelista each scored a goal for Winthrop. Sam Yarrow dished two assists, while Chris Finn and Joey Holgersen logged one apiece. Vikings goalie Ryan Skoczylas made 18 saves.

“Saugus is always tough,” Winthrop coach Dale Dunbar said. “They’re well coached. Jeff always has them ready to compete. It became a very tight game.

“It didn’t disappoint. It was a typical Winthrop-Saugus game. We were just lucky enough to come out on top.”

After a few minutes of even play in the opening period, Winthrop emerged as the more aggressive team offensively. The Vikings tested Devereaux early and often but the junior held his own in net. The early efforts paid dividends for Winthrop when Cherico lit the lamp for the game’ first goal and gave the Vikings a 1-0 lead. That’s where it stayed at the first intermission.

Things turned in Saugus’ favor in the second period, when the Sachems flipped the switch as the more aggressive group. A Winthrop penalty with 11:41 on the clock opened the door for the Sachems and they cashed in with Graffeo’s goal (scored 45 seconds later). Winthrop came up empty on three power plays in the second period, including 60 seconds with a 5-on-3 advantage. Saugus dodged the bullet to go into the second intermission tied at 1-1.

“I liked our second period,” Natalucci said. “I thought we made some adjustments. We had some good, clean breakouts. We were getting pucks to the net. We did a lot good things but we got away from it in the third period.”

Goals from Parker (12:56 remaining) and Evangelista (10:31 remaining) placed the Sachems on their heels as they trailed 3-1 in the period.

“We juggled the lines,” Dunbar said. “We didn’t think some of the guys were winning their one-on-one battles. We spent a lot more time in our own end. I was kind of disappointed in some of our seniors who weren’t getting the job done so we went to the younger guys. We loaded up on one line and made the other two checking lines. It worked.”

A Saugus power play with 6:36 to play gave the Sachems a chance to cut into the deficit but they couldn’t get anything going. Winthrop fought off a late Saugus attempt with Devereaux pulled in the closing minutes and held on for the 3-1 win.

“We knew coming in here that Winthrop’s well coached,” Natalucci said. “They’re going to work hard for 45 minutes and we had to work hard for 45 minutes. We worked for 30 tonight.”

Winthrop (9-3) visits Peabody Wednesday (5:15).

“The standings are good for us, the points are there,” Dunbar said, “but we still need to get better. We still have guys we’re looking at. Goaltending has been good for us. We tell our kids it’s a game to three (goals). If we can get to three with (Skoczylas), we’ll have a good chance to win.”

The Sachems (4-5-3) host Fenwick Monday night (6).

“We have to find some consistency in our game,” Natalucci said. “We’ve beaten some good teams, we’ve battled with some good teams and then we’ve lost games we have no business losing. If we can find consistency, we’ll make a good push at the end.”

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