Middleton, MA – We dropped by Essex Sports Center on a frigidly cold February afternoon to catch a glimpse of the top team in D3 at 14-0-1, the Hawks of Essex Tech who were hosting one of the top programs in D4 (11-2-1), the Rams of Shawsheen. Would the Hawks be able to remain perfect? This game would be a great test featuring two North Shore powerhouses.
The first period started with a heavy Shawsheen forecheck and consistently applied pressure which put the Hawks on their heels right from the beginning. That added pressure led to a number of quality chances and ultimately the Rams cashed in three minutes in as freshman forward Justin Thibert stole a puck in the slot and fired it into the top half of the net to make it 1-0 Shawsheen. The Rams would keep the pressure on early and tack on another goal just two minutes later. It was Thibert again who got himself open in the slot and fired a one-timer from sophomore linemate Dylan Higson to make it 2-0 Rams. Following the second goal the Hawks began to push back and were forcing the pace of play with their speed and power. Ironically, after a penalty was called against them for that same physicality they were able to cut the lead in half. Sophomore forward Jaydan Vargas carried the puck into open ice and buried it shorthanded to make the score 2-1, where it would stay moving into the second period.
In the middle frame, the Hawks were again back on their heels as Shawsheen held much of the possession and had most of the shot attempts. Four minutes into the period they took the momentum back as Higson took an initial shot off the rush on a breakaway and was able to follow up on his own rebound to restore the two-goal cushion. The remainder of the period might not have seen any additional goal-scoring, but the physicality really picked up with Essex Tech leading the charge. They laid out a couple of Rams puck carriers to fire up the bench and ignite the crowd but the scoreboard remained unchanged as we moved into the final 15 minutes.
In the third period, Essex Tech left it all out on the ice and dominated possession for the bulk of the 15 minutes. They put a heavy volume of shots on net and most of the territorial play took place in the neutral zone or their attacking zone. Ultimately, Shawsheen was smart about guarding the center of the ice and jumping into shot and passing lanes to limit what the Hawks were able to do. The Rams got a body on numerous shots from the point and they were quick to take away space along the walls as well. Despite all of this, Essex Tech was fortunate in the closing minutes of the period to gain a man advantage with 1:33 left in the game. They called a timeout and decided to pull the goalie to make it a 6-on-4. They created a handful of good looks at the net, but Shawsheen packed the house well and kept many pucks from even getting to netminder Mike Cedrone. After a couple of clutch clears, the fate was sealed as the Rams delivered the Hawks their first blemish on the season. A great game by both teams, who look poised for strong positioning heading into March. Final score: Shawsheen 3, Essex Tech 1.
- F Justin Thibert, Shawsheen
- F Dylan Higson, Shawsheen
- D Armani Booth, Essex Tech