PEABODY — With the postseason tournament just around the corner, the Lynnfield boys hockey team may be peaking at the perfect time.
Despite losing the puck possession battle, the Pioneers (10-4-3) extended their unbeaten streak to five games with a hard-fought 3-3 tie against visiting Triton Saturday at James McVann-Louis O’Keefe Rink.
Senior captain George DeRoche had a huge game with a goal and two assists, while senior captain Jaret Simpson also had a multiple-point game with two assists.
Junior forward Sean Robbins and senior forward Richie Casaletto might not have shown up on the stat sheet, but, nonetheless, were key contributors and had solid all-around games.
“I wasn’t happy with the lack of sustained zone time we had and the ample amount of time they had in our zone,” said Lynnfield coach Jon Gardner. “Triton is a solid team. In the past few years they have completely outplayed us, but it’s actually encouraging as we are on a 4-0-1 streak and we’re not even playing our best hockey.
“Today, Sean was our best winger on the wall today. He was tremendous, poised and just a cool cat, making plays as opposed to treating the puck like it was a hot potato. He had a ton of poise despite not playing a lot lately. And Richie was buzzing around out there all night.”
The game pitted two former Lynnfield High hockey standouts against each other with Gardner, a 1995 LHS graduate, and Triton coach Ryan Sheehan, Class of 2004.
Sheehan, who also serves as an assistant coach for the Lynnfield varsity football and baseball teams, said he was pleased with the Vikings’ effort despite a slow start.
“We came out a little flat but after the first four minutes we took it to them and it was exactly what we wanted to do but we would have liked to score more goals, obviously,” said Sheehan. “It’s my third year now and it’s always a one-goal game against Lynnfield. Whether it them taking it to us or us taking it to them, it’s always a close one.”
Lynnfield’s Ronnie Fuccillo staked the Pioneers to a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at the 6:23 mark of the first period. George DeRoche and Jaret Simpson were credited with assists on the goal, which occurred just eight seconds into the penalty.
The goal got the Vikings attention in a big way as they dominated possession and control for most of the rest of the period. They needed just 1:20 to get on the board on a goal by their top sniper, Sammy Rennick, who tied the game at the 7:43 mark (from Brad Killion and Lanes Tatro)..
With 2:53 to go in the period the Pioneers regained the lead with another quick power play goal, this one by DeRoche (from Simpson and John Simonetti).
“We really hit that hole on both power plays,” said Gardner. . We made a couple of adjustments in the last game when we gave up two short-handed goals in a minute. Which is like how do you let that happen. So that was a point of emphasis to talk about that before this game.”
Rennick (from Tatro) struck again, scoring a power play goal at the 6:13 mark of the second period to make it a 2-2 game.
Lynnfield needed only 30 seconds to take back the lead. Will Garofoli (from Leo Quinn and DeRoche) collected a loose puck in the crease and jammed it home to put the Pioneers on top, 3-2, with 8:26 left in the period.
The Vikings amped up the pressure in the third period and had the Pioneers pinned in their own zone for the most part. Their patience finally paid off a little more than five minutes to play in the game when MIkey Beevers redirected a soft shot from the left point past Lynnfield goaltender Aidan Kelly.
“Their goalie had no chance on that one,” said Sheehan. “it was a soft shot that got tipped, a total change of direction and there’s not too much you can do when that happens.”
Gardner disagreed, saying, “You can’t not block a shot on a wrister and you can’t not collapse low and one winger gets out to block the shot and doesn’t. With everyone collapsed low someone needs to be on that kid in front and we weren’t, deflection or not.”
At 8-5-2, the Vikings need two points to secure a berth in the tournament.
“With five games left, we have games in hand and need just two points. Beverly on Monday,” Sheehan said. “Hopefully we can punch our ticket Monday.”
“It was up and down with kind of a playoff feel to it obviously at the end . Right now it looks like we are in their wheelhouse and they are in ours as far as seedings with four or five games left, so we just hope that’s our last game against them.”
Lynnfield is back in action Wednesday night at home against North Reading (8:15).