SALEM — Hockey players from around the Northeastern Conference, some taking a break from preparing for the state tournament and others finishing their high school careers, showcased their talents in the NEC all-star game Saturday afternoon at Richard H. Rockett Arena.
Marblehead goaltender Peter Santeusanio (15 saves) had a standout performance, helping finish things for the North in a 7-6 win.
A pair of Saugus forwards also had nice games for the North with Adam Rodrigues scoring two goals and Ronnie Paolo dishing two assists.
For the South, Lynn’s Brian Clougherty (two goals, one assists) and Andrew Patrie (one goal, two assists) each had three points.
“You coach against these kids all the time and it’s always serious,” Winthrop coach Dale Dunbar, who was on the bench for the North, said. “It’s probably the only time you get to joke around and meet them on a different level. I was talking to Jared Mscisz (Danvers) a real nice player and telling him my nephew will probably be his captain in college next year. It’s a small world and stuff like that that makes this fun.”
The day started with a skills competition that included players competing in a fastest skater and stick handling race and a breakaway challenge. Mscisz took home the fastest skater while Rodrigues was crowned the best stick handler. Forward Jeremy Procter (Somerville) won the breakaway challenging, scoring on Danvers’ Adam Bridgeo in the final breakaway to seal the competition.
Chemistry between teammates seemed to help settle the North during the all-star game, which was divided into two 25-minute periods of running time.
A line composed of Winthrop players Joey Holgersen, Sam Yarrow and Brian Chalmers started things off with Holgersen finding the back on the net less than a minute in.
Just few minutes later, Marblehead’s line of Charlie McGurrin, Will Shull and Jacob Garfield added another goal for the North, with McGurrin scoring.
Not to be outdone, the Danvers trio of Tyler Puska, Jack Thibodeau and Mscisz added a third goal on the next shift with Puska scoring to give the North a 3-0 lead.
The South finally got on the board when Gloucester’s Colby Mitchell slid a pass to Patrie who ripped a one-timer on a two-on-one chance to cut the lead to 3-1.
“It’s fun to mix everyone around,” South coach Derek Geary (Gloucester) said. “I think that’s part of the spirit of the thing is to get them to play with kids they might have been rubbing elbows with the whole season. This game is a reminder that even if they wear different jerseys everybody’s in love with the sport. It’s a good hockey culture.”
A few minutes later Winthrop came through again. This time Luke Evangelista scored with assists from Yarrow and Chalmers to put the South back ahead by three.
But the North made a late push in the first half. Revere’s Zach Rufo made a nice play to score on a rebound and Clougherty added a goal thanks to a nice pass from Peabody’s Connor McCarron to cut the lead to 4-3.
In the closing minutes of the first, Lynn’s Paul Papageorgiou found the back of the net on a rebound and Gloucester’s Jack Costanzo scored on a breakaway to give the South its first lead at 5-4.
Rodrigues had his best shift of the day early in the second half. The Saugus senior added one goal and then ripped a slap shot for a second less than a minute later to put the Noth back ahead at 6-5.
Clougherty scored his second goal in the closing minutes to tie the game, but Medford’s Chris Freeman scored the game winner with 1:37 remaining to get the North the win. Santeusanio finished the game with 11 straight saves.
“It’s a good opportunity for coaches and players to see things in a different light,” Dunbar said. “I like to mix them up and let them all play together. It’s always a fun atmosphere. Now we get ready for playoffs and it becomes serious again. This a nice break.”