NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. -- The fans who head to the Tsongas Center for the Division 2 North finals on Monday night might want to be prepared to be there for a while. And for good reason because the goaltending matchup that is now set to happen has the potential to keep goose eggs on the scoreboard.
Winthrop’s Steven Waites pitched his third shutout in as many games on Tuesday, this one propelling his Vikings to a dominating 6-0 win
over NEC North rival Saugus at the Chelmsford Forum.
The Vikings, the No. 10 seed, will meet Wilmington as the Wildcats rode their own hot goaltender – Drew Foley – to a 2-0 win over North Andover in the first semifinal tilt on Tuesday.
For Winthrop, it was their second win in three tries over the Sachems this season and showed that they are playing perhaps their best hockey of the season.
“The thing is that we’re just now hitting our stride and getting better,” Winthrop head coach Dale Dunbar said. “We were able to get everyone in and to let them feel a part of a win like this is nice.”
The Vikings have now beaten Tewksbury, Boston Latin and the Sachems by a combined 11-0 score as Waites has not allowed a goal in 125 minutes of tournament play.
“When he’s on and focused, Steve is as good as anyone,” Dunbar said. “And to go three games in the tournament without giving up a goal says a lot about our defense. We pride ourself on how we play in our own end of the ice.”
This one really wasn’t as close as the 6-0 score as the Vikings forced Saugus into mistake after mistake with the puck, many of them turning into odd-man rushes and goals on Sachem keeper Nick Hegarty.
“We simply turned the puck over way too much,” Saugus head coach Jeff Natalucci said. “And Winthrop will make you pay for every mistake that you make. And they made us pay every time.”
It took only four and a half minutes for the Vikings to get on the scoreboard as Jake McKinnon followed a Mike Paulson shot and slid the rebound home before he went crashing feet first into the boards.
Moments later, Winthrop was on the power play and looking for more offense. And they got it when Chris LeBlanc fed Mitch Paulson for the senior’s 10th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead after one.
“We wanted to come out fast and when you score that first goal, you get your legs under you and it gets the confidence up,” Dunbar said.
Saugus showed some flashes of its offense early in the second and it resulted in an interference penalty on Adam Lundberg at the 1:22 mark. Instead of it beign a chance for Saugus to make things interesting, the next 62 seconds turned the game into a rout.
Jimmy Barker forced a turnover along the left halfwall, sending LeBlanc and Dan Eruzione on a 2-on-1 against Hegarty. LeBlanc made a perfect pass and Eruzione slid the puck home for a 3-0 lead just 100 seconds into the middle stanza.
Less than a minute later, Matt Todisco picked off a pass and beat HEgarty clean on a break and the Vikings were suddenly up 4-0.
“Those two shorthanded goals were just a killer,” Natalucci said. “We had some chances there at the start of the second and then we made mistakes that cost us.”
Waites then went about snuffing out Saugus’ hopes as he made three stellar saves late in the period to keep it a 4-0 game after two.
The Vikings put the game away at 2:52 of the third when Chris Page snapped a shot over Hegarty’s shoulder. Just 55 seconds later, LeBlanc tipped home Lundberg’s shot on a power play to cap the scoring.
“We have talent and chemistry and that’s something that’s hard to find,” Dunbar said. “We have a lot of unselfish guys.”
WILMINGTON 2, NORTH ANDOVER 0
For the second time in as many games, Drew Foley shut down one of the top offenses in the Cape Ann League as the Wildcats earned a third straight win over former rivals from the CAL.
The game was scoreless until the final minutes of the first period when Cam Owens blew a shot past Joel Daccord on a power play for a 1-0 Wilmington lead.
Foley then zoned in and snuffed out the Scarlet Knights offense. He stopped 25 shots in all, including nine in the third period when North Andover was pressing for the equalizer.
Jake Rogers’ empty net goal with under 20 seconds left put the game away for the Wildcats.