Lowell, MA – The Winchester Sachems overcame an early 2-0 deficit to go on to a 4-2 victory over the Billerica Indians in the MIAA D1 North semifinals at the Tsongas Center. Junior Ryan McCarthy notched a hat trick, including one shorthanded and one on the power play and sophomore goalie Rob DiVincenzo made 14 stops to earn the win. Billerica junior goalie Connor Feeney stopped 31 Sachem shots in the loss.
The first period started a bit sloppy. Billerica carried most of the play as they got pucks deep and to the net. The Indians broke through first 4:04 in as freshman forward Alexander Coulot tipped home a shot from senior defender Collin Cameron. Junior defenseman Garrett Murphy picked up an assist as well. The Indians struck again with 8:29 left as freshman Paul Egan dangled his way to space and fed senior forward Matt Covino in the slot. Covino spun and fired it home for an early 2-0 lead. The play was even for the remainder of the first frame. That is, until 5.9 seconds were left when McCarthy slipped his first tally home from the slot off a feed from defender Jack Houle and forward Joe Lepore. That was a huge boost for the Sachems as they headed to the room down only 2-1.
The second period was up and down shifts in momentum with Billerica earning a couple of power-play chances. On one, talented Winchester attacker Mike Drew took a puck up ice, attacked a seam and dished to McCarthy who made a pretty deke for the shorty. DiVincenzo also picked up an assist, his first of the year. That tied the score at two, Winchester killed another penalty late in the period but the score remained tied heading into the break.
In the third, the Sachems took over: pumping 14 shots on the Billerica net while allowing none. Feeney made some huge stops for Billerica, keeping them in it for long stretches. The Sachems earned their first power play with 5:58 and caught a break. McCarthy attempted a cross-zone pass that went off a Billerica skate and into the net. Lepore and senior Mike Drew picked up assists. 2:12 later Colin Van Stry picked off a Feeney clear, held the puck a moment then buried it to give the Sachems an unassisted insurance goal with just 3:46 left. That’s how it ended as Winchester will move on to the D1 North Final for the second straight year.
1st F Ryan McCarthy (Winchester)
2nd F Collin Van Stry (Winchester)
3rd D Jack Houle (Winchester)
Billerica jumped out quickly and then had several power play opportunities where they were able to little going. They wanted to carry the puck in and Winchester was aggressive in the neutral zone, creating turnovers and frustration for the Indians.
For Winchester; Van Stry is an interesting 2003. He is seeing more ice time and producing as a result. He is a confident young player with slick stick skills and excellent speed. Speaking of, McCarthy was the best player on the ice tonight. He is poised and has a nose for the goal. He also laid out and blocked a shot at the end; pus he played all 200 feet for 45 minutes. DiVincenzo was OK tonight, he made a few nice stops. He showed his blocker off a couple of times but was not challenged much the last two periods. Mike Drew was all around the puck as usual and made a pretty pass on McCarthy’s SHG. Senior defender Luke Mix, junior defender Mike Martignetti and senior Jack Houle all played well and chipped in with big minutes in key situations. Senior forward Nolan Butler was also solid; he played an understated game but was good in his end.
For Billerica; junior D Matt Livingston looked big and athletic: he has some upside to his game. Two Indian freshmen Coulot and Egan are good young players who contributed tonight. Egan has some wiggle in his game, but both are ones to watch for next season. Feeney was good in this game, but his team wore down as the game went on. He made some nice stops and gave them a chance. Ultimately, he made one mistake but stopped a lot of pucks.
*Note: We were unable to add several Billerica players due to lack of information on their roster.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images