First-year varsity coach Joey Lee’s Pinkerton Academy ice hockey squad had an exceptional run over the last several months of the Division I season, posting a 7-2-1 record over its last 10 contests.
But the Astros’ championship hopes withered on the vine due to a 5-1 loss to the rival Londonderry High Lancers in a D-I semifinal battle at Manchester’s JFK Coliseum on Thursday, March 13.
The seventh-ranked Astros and third-seeded Lancers had faced off twice during the regular season, with each side collecting a victory. But the Lancers unquestionably dominated the semifinal-round meeting, leading 1-0 after one stanza and 4-1 at the conclusion of two.
After its frustrating, sub-.500 start to the Division I campaign, the Pinkerton Academy side finished up with a far more solid record and feeling more confident about itself and what it could achieve.
“Despite the loss, we wrapped up an excellent playoff run and a strong season,” said Lee. “We displayed continued growth, recovering from a 3-7-1 start to end the season 10-9-2 and 11-9-4 overall.”
The contest started as if the two teams were intent upon imitating a track meet, with fast rushes back and forth up and down the sheet of JFK ice. But the host Lancers potted the lone goal of those opening 15 minutes when, with 9:45 remaining and a delayed penalty about to be called on PA, LHS senior forward Frank Wynters rapped home a rebound to Pinkerton junior goalie Brendan Murphy’s left.
Londonderry had several other fine scoring chances during the remainder of the stanza, but PA keeper Murphy (26 total stops) stood up tall and denied them.
The Lancers finished with a modest advantage where shots on net were concerned (11-7) and the 1-0 lead at the close of the first.
But the Lancers’ lead would grow to 4-0, thanks to consecutive goals from Wynters, junior defenseman Lucas Poulin, and senior forward Eric Coburn during the first nine minutes of the second stanza.
Pinkerton took a small but definite step toward a comeback with 3:08 left in the second when sophomore forward Tyler Poole banged home a rebound, with Ryan Christie and John Hamilton garnering the assists. Londonderry ended up leading 15-12 where shots on net were concerned in the period, and 4-1 on the scoreboard when the buzzer buzzed ending the second.
Action had begun to get plenty chippy during the second period, and continued to be so in the third with a bunch of penalties being called. The Lancers closed out the scoring with Coburn’s second goal of the contest on a power-play a little less than three minutes into the third stanza. And 5-1 was where the final score landed, with LHS goalie Joe McGrath contributing 26 saves to his contingent’s successful effort.