Stoneham, MA – With the regular season drawing to a close in a couple of weeks we took a trip down 93 to watch Melrose take on hometown Stoneham in a 6pm ripper. Melrose is fighting for playoff positioning while Stoneham is looking to get back to .500 before the season wraps up. What followed was a wild game that the standings certainly wouldn’t have predicted.
The first period was a series of momentum swings back and forth between the two squads. It started early when a penalty was assessed to Stoneham and Melrose executed a picture-perfect breakout. Junior star Brendan Fennell fed forward Cameron Marks up the wing who gave it to Charles Haggerty at the far post for an easy tap-in: 1-0 Melrose. About three minutes later, Stoneham got that one back as speedster Brandon Stewart took a stretch pass and snuck behind the D and roofed it to tie the score on the power play. Things started to settle in after that as both teams traded chances in end-to-end action. With nearly 11 minutes gone, Stoneham struck again after Melrose was whistled for too many men. Forward Danny Storella put a shot on net that slipped through the 5-hole of Melrose netminder Joseph Shields but forward Ryan Giacchetto was there to poke it home off the goal line: 2-1 Spartans. Just two minutes later the Red Raiders responded: defender Joseph Lucien found Marks (who was playing D tonight) and he fired one home from the point. The game was tied at two which would be our score after one period.
The second period was a penalty-filled affair with more wild momentum swings and the animosity really took over as play went on. The action started just under six minutes in when Marks broke into the offensive zone holding off a defender and put a shot on net that forward Cameron Gorman was able to clean up to make it 3-2 Red Raiders. After that Stoneham began to take control as Melrose found itself on parade to the sin bin. This led to the Spartans tallying three straight power-play markers. The first came at 10 minutes on a net-front scramble by Gavin Doherty who shoveled it home to tie it back up. Roughly two minutes later: another penalty for Melrose and another goal, this one off a net-front shovel by defender playing forward William O’Brien – who made sure everyone within shouting distance knew what he just did. The third came three minutes later just before the frame ended as Giacchetto took advantage of a puck sitting in the blue paint following an extended scramble. After that third consecutive goal, both teams lost their tempers around the cage and the second of two misconducts were called on Melrose (Fennell and defender Gavin Crowley). The Spartans carried a 5-3 lead into the locker room.
The third period featured two teams getting back to their strengths and not lingering after the whistles. You could tell Melrose had a sense of urgency to their game coming out of the room as they scored to cut the lead in half 15 seconds into the frame. Haggerty made a terrific pass into the slot and junior forward Sean Senier, who drifted with the puck to change his shot angle and ripped one home high: 5-4. Five minutes later, Stoneham got that one back as another power play chance led to their goal when Storella put a shot on net that produced a big rebound and O’Brien was there to hop on it and backhand it home: 6-4. With five minutes to play, it seemed as though Stoneham would cruise to a two goal victory, but Melrose was finally at full strength after both misconducts expired and they made a charge. With four and a half to go, Haggerty drove hard to the net and set up the big man Fennell for an easy finish right near the cage: 6-5 Stoneham. But the Red Raiders weren’t done: with a minute and a half left, the blue liner Lucien made a nice outlet pass to spring junior Quinn McCarthy who made a great individual effort play, dragging around a defender and snapping it home to tie the game up. That would be our final score since there was determined to be no OT for this contest.
- F Charles Haggerty, Melrose
- D Joseph Lucien, Melrose
- F Ryan Giacchetto, Stoneham
TTPA: D/F William O’Brien, Stoneham
This game was a battle in every sense of the word. There was a bit of a disjointed flow because of the constant penalties. Of the 12 goals scored tonight: nine of them came on the man advantage. There were times where the referees called anything either bench called attention to, and other moments where the whistles were put away to let the game play out. That lack of consistency led to a bit of a helter-skelter action and massive momentum swings in all three periods. Aside from that, each team really leaned in on its strengths. Melrose is big, physical and quick on the attack. They burned Stoneham numerous times in transition off odd-man rushes. Stoneham is a quality skating team: they may be leaner and younger but they were very opportunistic with stretch passes. They also did a nice job of getting to the cage to bank home rebounds, which carried them offensively for a while in this one.
For Stoneham, we liked the speed of Stewart: his first step was excellent both on and off the puck, he might be one of the faster players we’ve seen in any Division. Two linemates who had great nights were freshman Storella and junior Giacchetto. Storella was smart with puck possession and shot with a purpose where Giacchetto was able to consistently get to the cage (he scored two this way) and make quality plays in the neutral zone. Defenseman Michael Shannon, the assistant captain, was an interesting defender who jumped up into the offense a ton: he has long, lean strides and good quickness. Finally, O’Brien was one of the best we’ve seen at getting under opponents’ skin. He was in everyone’s grill: chirping about his exploits, playing physical and refusing to back down off his spots in the offensive zone.
For Melrose, the conversation should start with Fennell: he comes as advertised. He’s a tough, smart hockey player. His vision with and without the puck is the best we’ve seen at the MIAA level this season. It enables him to play at half speed and pick teams apart because he can read the zone and anticipate so easily. It doesn’t hurt that he is one of the strongest players in the MIAA too: every day for him is leg day. The team’s top defenseman has to be Lucien the senior. He is big, smooth and athletic on the back end. He executes slick turns and uses his feet to escape very well. He factored in on many of the team’s goals tonight because he works the puck low to high very well 5-on-5 and on the man advantage. Both Senier and Haggerty were dynamic offensively tonight. They were each slippery but had the size in order to shake off body checks and keep moving into the zone. They created numerous odd-man chances by getting up to top speed quickly and forcing the D to cut them off. Don’t forget the game-tying goal scorer as well: McCarthy has some size as well and he was able to slip off contact all game long. His willingness to chase the puck down gave him an added element that was tough to defend.