Squirt Ice Wolves: The Gateway Ice Wolves finished their amazing season with a Yankee Conference Championship, beating GYH Ireland 6-0. The Ice Wolves capped off their undefeated Yankee Conference run with a 30-0 record. Leading the way in scoring was Tyler Lovendale with a hat trick. Quirino doCanto added two goals and three assists, while Robert Maloney added a goal himself. Alex DeMarco and Thomas Galavotti played outstanding in net, earning the combined shutout.
Gateway Bantams: A hot start turned into heartbreak as the Gateway Bantams’ Cinderella season came to a sudden end on Sunday in front of a huge hometown crowd at the Hobomock Rink in Pembroke. The boys entered the championship game riding a seven-game winning streak, including handing Weymouth its third loss of the season only the previous week. “We definitely hit a stride late in the season, and were playing as well as anyone in the league entering the playoffs,” Coach Mike Houdlette said.
On Sunday, the boys used the emotion of the “Star Spangled Banner” and the roar of the Wareham fans to get a quick jump on Weymouth. Gateway put several shots on net throughout the first few shifts before Matt St. John broke the ice 3:43 into the game. The Bantams kept the momentum with through heavy forechecking by the line of Alex Atkinson, Brady Smith, and Brian Holmes, who continuously kept Weymouth hemmed in their defensive zone. Midway through the first period, Doug Breault doubled Gateway’s lead with a slapshot from the point, assisted by Jake Tomasik and Smith. When Sean Kelso jumped on a loose puck from Will Paling and potted the third goal, the crowd nearly lifted the roof off the rink, and things looked promising for the hometown team.
In the second period, the play became much looser, with each team getting numerous chances to score. Gateway was led by the tireless work of Mike Houdlette and strong forechecking of Chad Lavoie and Jacob Spevack. To make matters more difficult, Gateway had to deal with multiple shorthanded situations and the loss of one of their leaders, Kelso. Alex Hathaway made a great play on a loose puck in front of his goalie to keep the three-goal lead. Weymouth finally got on the scoreboard when a shot slipped past a screened Chase Cunningham. The period would end with Gateway leading 3-1.
The tone of the game changed when Weymouth scored early in the third period to close within one. “We were fatigued with the number of shorthanded situations, and we really had a hard time getting the emotional edge back after that big first period,” Houdlette said. “We were really just trying to hold on at that point.”
The momentum moved entirely onto the Weymouth bench after they tied the game on a shot from the high slot that eluded Cunningham, who was recently named to the league All-Star team. The last few minutes were frenetic and full of chances, but there would be no more scoring until the teams met in an unusual overtime format.
The teams would start at five against five for one minute, followed by four on four, then three on three, then two on two for subsequent segments.
“The challenging part of the format is that you cannot substitute players throughout this time, so it becomes a competition of individual stamina, not team talent and depth,” Houdlette said. “Worse still is that many of the players that had fought so hard throughout the game and the season could not compete for the championship.”
In an anticlimactic end, Weymouth cashed in on a breakaway to break the hearts on the boys from Gateway in the fourth overtime segment.
“When we began the season, we had three goals. One, to get the freshmen on the team ready for the high school hockey season, two, to have fun on a competitive team, and three, to represent Gateway Youth Hockey well in our first season in the Yankee Conference. We had four players competing in for their high schools, we won 21 of 32 conference games, and Yankee wants the program to field more teams in their league. I would say that qualifies as a success. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids, they had a great season,” Houdlette said following the loss.
The coaches also wanted to recognize the two goalies that did not appear in the championship game but were big contributors throughout the season, AJ Bridges and Teaghin Andre, as well as Liam Sweeney, who missed the final game due to injury.
Middle School: The Wareham Vikings played one of the finest games of their season Friday night in a 3-2 playoff win against Franklin.
Though they were down 2-0 at the end of the first period, the Vikings refused to give up. All 14 skaters worked together seamlessly to pull the team out of the hole. The turnaround began when Will Paling found the net, midway through the second period, assisted by Sean Kelso and Mike Houdlette. Zach Lovendale tied the game up to start the third, assisted by Jackson St. Don. And Kelso pulled the Vikings ahead at the seven-minute mark, assisted once again by St. Don and Matt Youlden. Meanwhile, goalie Teaghin Andre kept Franklin from finding the net for the remainder of the game. Andre had a stellar game, assisted by his always capable defense.
Coach Howie Ladd expressed extreme pride in the team.
“There wasn’t any one standout tonight because everyone played to their highest level,” he said. “This win was truly a team effort.”
After such a great game, the Vikings were eager to take on Mansfield Saturday night. However, their fortunes had turned, as the team found themselves unable to find their rhythm. The opponents seemed well-matched through the first period as the game remained scoreless. But Mansfield spent the second period conducting a scoring onslaught, finding the net four times before the period was done. To their credit, Wareham never gave up, continually attempting to move the puck down the ice in a penalty-ridden game. But while Mansfield gave Vikings goalie AJ Bridges a workout, the Mansfield goalie only had a handful of shots to block. One of those shots found the net when Paling scored on a breakaway with just under four minutes left in the game, bringing the score to 4-1, the final score of the game.
Even after the loss, the Vikings held out hope that they would make the championship game. Once the numbers were crunched though, the Wareham Vikings found they missed the cutoff by only two points. Congratulations to the Middle School team on a season played with skill, heart, and sportsmanship. Even with being moved up a division for the playoffs, they made themselves tough to beat.