Danvers and Winthrop entered Wednesday night’s contest tied atop the Northeastern Conference North in points. They entered the third period tied, 2-2. And with two minutes to go and the Falcons leading, 3-2, both squads used their timeouts — with the NEC crown on the line.
“As long as we had a third man back and didn’t get caught behind the puck, we were in good shape,” said Danvers coach Steve Baldassare. “[I told them] don’t let them have any chances down in our zone, everything’s got to be out. Take an icing, so what? It stops their momentum.”
Withstanding a flurry of chances from the No. 17 Vikings in the game’s final seconds, Danvers (12-4-2, 7-1-2) held on to beat Winthrop (13-2-3, 6-1-2) in Larsen Arena, capturing at least a share of the NEC title.
After giving up the lead late in the second, Danvers went ahead for good early in the third, cashing in on the power play. The Falcons took possession in the offensive zone, moving the puck around looking for the go-ahead tally. They found it when junior Tom Mento caught a pass to the right of goalie Ryan Skoczylas and buried it in the open net.
“It was unbelievable,” said Mento, who claimed he and a few teammates were feeling sick before the game. “The boys just kept coming back all game. We were fighting, getting pucks down low and we caught a break with the penalty . . . I’m feeling great right now.”
In a contest that was physical and fast-paced, the host Vikings jumped out to the early lead, scoring on the first shot of the game. With 2:44 gone in the first, junior Brian Chalmers broke down the far side of the offensive zone, skating in against a lone Danvers defenseman. The forward uncorked a slap shot from the left faceoff dot that snuck past Falcons netminder Yegor Bublik to give Winthrop the 1-0 lead.
However, fresh off of killing a hooking penalty with four minutes left in the opening frame, Conor Purtell slammed home a rebound on the doorstep of the Winthrop net to tie it. Officials originally waved off the score but, after conferring referees quickly reversed the decision.
Purtell struck again with 5:15 remaining in the second off of a shot that snuck in between the crossbar and the lowered left shoulder of the crouching Skoczylas.
Winthrop’s Henry Brooks tied the score at 2 late in the second, but the shutdown play of Bublik (28 saves) and the strike from Mento in the third proved to be enough for the Falcons.
David Souza can be reached at email@example.com.