Bedford, MA – MassNZ saw a chance for a D3 double dip and thanks to our friends at LiveBarn we were able to catch it. There was a marquee matchup that got underway late (8:45 pm) at Edge Sports Center. The seventh-ranked Rangers of Methuen HS were traveling to take on the twelve-ranked Bucs of Bedford HS on Senior Night in what would be a critical game for playoff seeding in March. Due to the game being delayed by a youth game running long, the Senior Night festivities were accelerated to a breakneck pace to ensure we could get going promptly. Both teams wanted to improve their chances to finish in the Top 10 and we were all in to watch and follow along.
In the first period, you could tell the effect that sitting around for an extra hour had on the players as it took a couple of shifts for each player to really feel comfortable on the ice. There were overskated pucks, missed passes and a few shots off the mark, but this is to be expected when taking hockey players out of their routines. It seemed as though we were poised to set a new record for most icings to start a game, but as we moved deeper into the frame things started to smooth out. This turned into a very physical period and the neutral zone became a war zone as transition plays were stifled and big hits followed from both teams. The majority of the scoring chances happened around the netfront area as neither squad was able to create odd-man chances. Ultimately, we ended the first period scoreless between these two D3 heavyweights.
In the middle frame, things began to heat up and the connections were much crisper now that each team was sufficiently engaged and into the flow of the game. Bedford made life very difficult on Methuen by clogging up the neutral zone and jumping up actively at the blue line to deny easy zone entries. Methuen looked to quickly escape the zone using their skating game and quick outlet feeds which did yield a couple of notable chances off the wings. The only goal of the period belonged to the Bucs who lit the lamp just 2:30 into the proceedings. Junior forward Drew Siwik corraled a puck just past the right post and saw an open junior captain Charles Demeo who had crept in from the point. Demeo accepted the pass and did not hesitate to fire the puck on net, beating the netminder short side to give Bedford the 1-0 lead. This seemed to galvanize the Bucs effort as they continued to play hard, heavy hockey and take away the space and speed that makes Methuen successful. There were a couple of minor penalties whistled in the period, but they were of little consequence as neither team was able to score. On we went to the final frame with Methuen needing to make a strong push to climb back into this one.
In the final regulation frame, we got off to a helter-skelter start as both teams tried to grab the momentum. The teams were trading chances back and forth and each was looking for the dagger. Bedford would be the team to strike the first blow. On an offensive zone draw with just under 10 minutes remaining, sophomore forward Alex Frost won the puck over to junior Ryan McGrath who charged to below the faceoff dot and snapped a puck home with a defender draped on his back: 2-0 Bucs. Bedford looked to sew up this game, but in the words of Lee Corso, the Rangers said “Not so fast, my friend.” Just two minutes later they would cut the lead to one on a breakout rush by senior forward Dominic Romano who threw the puck into the middle for speedy sophomore Will MacLaren. The puck was poke checked into MacLaren’s body and popped out behind the defender. MacLaren slipped past him and buried short side: 2-1 was our score with under eight minutes remaining. Three minutes later, Methuen would use their timeout both to catch the team’s breath and settle things down, but also to focus on an upcoming offensive zone draw. They were unable to convert off that chance, and on we played. The teams continued to trade chances for the rest of the period, and it was Methuen who had the last word. They took advantage of a hooking penalty assessed to Bedford with 3:15 to go. On the ensuing faceoff, junior center Aidan Cashman won the puck back to senior defender Sokratis Bousios, who teed up junior forward Quinn Ronan at the point and he wired one bar and in on the short side again to tie this thing up at 2-2. The Bedford crowd was silenced and you could feel some of the air being let out of the building, even watching on video. Just a minute later, Bedford would call a timeout to rally the troops and finish the period strong but the buzzer would sound all tied at 2-2: on we went to 4-on-4 OT.
In the overtime period, the game opened up and both teams fully engaged their transition game. Each side was trading odd-man rushes, looking for the winning goal. The netfront areas were hard to win and the goaltenders were able to clamp down on second-chance opportunities. For the most part, the key to this OT was game management – neither team wanted to give up a chance by going too deep on the attack. Each was able to get back in enough time to stifle the rush. One very odd moment occurred with about three minutes remaining in OT. It looked as though the Methuen bench called for a timeout and one referee granted it to them…the only problem was there are no timeouts allowed in OT, per MIAA rules. To his credit, the second official quickly corrected the mistake, ironically, not before the Methuen staff had a chance to chat things over with the players for about 20 seconds. Chris Webber could not be reached for comment. Things continued to escalate and with 1:20 remaining in 4-on-4 play, the Rangers made a bold move by pulling their goalie to skate 5-on-4. The riverboat gamble paid off as junior defender Adam Lambert made a center ice pass off the boards to Romano who caught the pass just outside the offensive blue line. Romano smartly noticed that the defender was looking to take away the wall and skated inside of him to gain the blue line with one defender left to beat. Romano approached the goalie and ripped a shot bar down from just inside the dot to give Methuen the 3-2 clutch win in OT with just 20 seconds remaining. What a game and what an ending.
- F Dominic Romano, Methuen
- F Will MacLaren, Methuen
- F Ryan McGrath, Bedford