MALDEN, Mass. -- Having scored no more than one goal in each of its first five games, a casting doubt lingered as whether or not St. Mary's of Lynn would be able to dispell that curse against Hingham in Saturday night's consolation game of the Christie Serino Christmas Classic at Valley Forum II.
It wasn't a secret that the Spartans were suffering mightily on the offensive side. This team, over the first couple of weeks, has relied heavily on its defense as well as senior goaltender Bailey MacBurnie to bail them out.
But at least for one evening, a transformation was beginning to take place. Finally, St. Mary's had found the back of the net more than once. The Spartans managed a goal per inning to claim a 3-1 victory.
"We're a little disappointed that it wasn't our best game but we still managed to find a way to compete against a very talented team," said St. Mary's head coach Mark Lee, his team now sitting at 2-3-1. "I think we did a good job taking away quality scoring opportunities. But we just didn't seem to have the legs like we had on Friday night (a 1-1 tie versus Austin Prep, before losing in a shootout). We need to get better but we'll take the two points and hopefully it is a learning experience for us. This is one of the premier Christmas tournaments in the state and for us to come away with 3-out-of-4 points gives us a lot of confidence and hopefully we'll build off of it."
Although controlling much of the first period, the Spartans were still out-shot 33-11 for the game. St. Mary's jumped ahead 1-0 at 12:15 of the opening frame. Sophomore forward Connor Foley grabbed an errant rebound off the back dasher and pushed the puck past Jack Santilli. The Harbormen (1-3-1) had difficulty in their attempts to create space during the opening frame, as the Spartan defense held their ground and shadowed any Hingham player with the puck.
"We're down a few guys in the line up and we've been pressing a lot," Harbormen head coach Tony Messina said. "I'm happy our kids played hard but we need to play three full periods out there. At times tonight we let up and then they score to take some momentum away. It's very frustrating right now. Our kids played hard and deserve better but you need to create your offense to score goals and win games. We're not doing that right now."
Hingham will walk away realizing it wasted a golden chance to tie the game early in the second period when after going on a 5-on-3 power play and coming up empty. But a short time later, defenseman Nico Droster was able to send a blast through traffic that evaded MacBurnie to knot the game at 1-1. The tie lasted all but 18 seconds as St. Mary's offense was doing an admirable job moving the puck down ice through the neutral zone. Jordan Manthorne, a senior captain, gave the Spartans the lead back after gaining control of a rebound in front and lifting a backhand past Santilli.
As expected, Hingham dominated the final 15 minutes of action, pasting MacBurnie with 19 shots in its attempts to deadlock the contest. But MacBurnie stood his ground, stopping everything headed his way.
"We knew coming in that Hingham was a really good team," said MacBurnie. "We also have very good team. They had a good amount of shots tonight but I think my team did a nice job forcing them to make shots from the outside. I think we just got off to a slow start this season. I think we're starting to turn things around right now."
At 10:45 of the period, St. Mary's got some much-needed breathing space after Chris Donovan re-directed a shot it front that trickled between Santilli's leg pads and into the back of the net, giving the Spartans a two-goal margin. Over the closing minutes, the Harbormen continued to pelt MacBurnie with zero results as they skated off the ice frustrated and defeated.
"After finally scoring more that one goal in a game, hopefully this will open the flood gates a little bit," Lee said. "We haven't scored much but it's not for a lack of hard work. Our kids give what they have all the time. A huge part of our team is our goaltender keeping us in games, especially when we don't have our A-game. He gives us a chance to win. Tonight was a perfect example of that. Without Bailey tonight might've been a different story."