In addition to the Gardner brothers, assistant coaches Scott McGrane and Harry Providekes were part of the 1996 Pioneers team that won the program’s only state championship. The history and experience of the coaching staff served as an inspiration to current players.
“They always talk about it. It creates a sense of pride in us,” the senior captain said. Chase Carney noted. “They’re really proud, and it kind of seeps down to us.”
Carney (27-15—42) is one of the Eastern Mass’ top scorers. and the center of a dynamic first line with seniors Will Steadman (left wing, 8-8—16) and Aidan Burke (right wing, 9-17—26) who was the driving force behind Lynnfield’s success. Steadman and Burke are alternate captains with Junior Drew Damiani (8-27—35), another big offensive threat on the defense that makes the front line even harder to shut down.
“They are deadly together. We brought them together a few weeks into the season and they’ve been inseparable ever since,” Gardner said, citing the unit’s combination of size, skill, speed and playing ability.
“It’s the best group we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
Says Damiani: “We’re just clicking this year.”
Despite all their offensive exploits, the Pioneers have allowed a total of six goals during their seven-game winning streak. Senior Alternate Captain Patrick Barrette is another best blue liner ahead of the senior goalie tandem of Phineas Mitchener and Evan Fitzemeyer.
Gardner said it was a change of mentality after the team’s only league defeat, 5-2 against North Reading on January 12.
“It woke us up,” Gardner said. “I really spoke to them about their pride and prevention.”
It made the circumstances surrounding Saturday’s deciding game all the sweeter – a senior home game at McVann-O’Keefe Skating Rink in Peabody and North Reading in town for the rematch. Carney had two goals and two assists in the 5-1 victory, with Damiani (goal, two assists), Steadman and Burke (goal, assist each) all playing important roles.
“It’s a huge moment,” Carney said. “The team really bonded after the first loss to North Reading…we didn’t play a great game [the first meeting] so it was great to bounce back.
Lynnfield’s historic season also includes rare sweeps of CAL powerhouses Newburyport (the first since 2005) and Triton (2010).
“We knew at the start of the season that we had a chance to do it, so we all put in the work and the effort to make it happen,” Damiani said. “It was great to finally meet again.”
Gardner said he and staff frequently reference the Lynnfield gymnasium banner signifying the program’s 2005 CAL championship, even going so far as to ask players about pop culture and history from that era.
“We’re kidding because none of them know because [few] of them were born,” Gardner said. “It was very rewarding to be able to do that.”
Sitting at No. 5 in Division 3 in the Globe’s unofficial power ratings entering Thursday, the Trailblazers believe they are one of the top playoff contenders. But they aren’t looking past Saturday’s home game against former CAL rival Masconomet, the next in a gauntlet to complete the regular season that culminates in a trip to Gloucester, which handed the Pioneers their only another loss on New Year’s Day.
“Our mindset has always been to win the day, win the day,” Carney said, “to go 1-0 and win the day.”
Even if some days are much more important than others.
ice cream fries
▪ While the end-of-season league championship tournaments proved to be a highlight of the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, only two leagues in East Masse carry on the tradition.
The Dual County League staged matchups for the DCL Cup, dividing the league’s eight programs into two tiers based on the most recent MIAA power ratings. In Division 1, Lincoln-Sudbury will open the action on Monday hosting Westford Academy (5:20 p.m., New England Sports Center in Marlborough), while Waltham host Newton South on Tuesday (7 p.m.).
In Division 2, Acton-Boxborough travel to Cambridge (Monday, 4 p.m., Simoni Memorial Rink), while the Edge Sports Center rivals — Bedford and Concord-Carlisle — meet in the other semi-final (Tuesday, 8:35 p.m.). ).
The top seeds will host championship and consolation matches in each bracket.
The Catholic Central League has yet to finalize clashes for the CCL Cup, but games between the league’s six Division 1 teams are set to start on Monday.
A three-division Central Mass tournament. should begin next week, and Western Mass. will have a pair of four-team sectional brackets based on MIAA power ratings.
▪ Methuen can be forgiven if his historic league championship celebration was a little muted. Rangers weren’t even on the ice when they won the Dual County/Merrimack Valley 3 title, the program’s first since 1998. It was Dracut/Tyngsborough’s victory last Saturday against Bedford that secured Methuen (11 -4-2 overall, 5- 1-1 league) could not be caught up in the standings. Methuen and Haverhill each moved to DCL/MVC 3 this season as part of a league realignment.
▪ South Shore Voc-Tech secured its first playoff berth since 2011 with a 6-3 win Saturday over Upper Cape. The Vikings (9-4-1), who had five games left heading into Thursday night’s game against Tri-County, were boosted by a dynamic senior captain/center front line Preston Channel (24-17—41), senior captain/right wing Cole Sheehan (13-21—34) and junior left wing Jacob McAler (15-18—33).
▪ Norwell Coach Jim Casagrande earned his 200th career win with the Clippers in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Nantucket. Casagrande previously coached seven seasons at Rockland before taking over at Norwell in 2008-09, leading the Clippers to double-digit wins every season except last year, as well as the Division 3 South championships in 2009 and 2015 .
Games to watch
Friday, Central Catholic at Waltham, 4 (Veterans Memorial Rink) — The visiting Raiders sit atop the Dual County/Merrimack Valley 1 standings but the Hawks, who won the previous encounter (4-1), can open the door as well as Chelmsford with a victory.
Friday, Arlington at Reading, 7:25 a.m. (Burbank Ice Arena) — After Wednesday’s loss to Belmont, the visiting Spy Ponders will look to bounce back against the Rockets, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games.
Saturday, Marshfield to Duxbury, 12 (The Bog, Kingston) — First place in the Keenan Division of the Patriot League is on the line; the visiting Rams won overtime 2-1 in their annual Green Cup showdown last month.
Sunday, Catholic Memorial at BC High, 12 (UMass Boston) – The Knights have already won the Catholic Conference title, but the intrigue never fails when they take on the Eagles on the ice.
Wednesday, Norwell at Scituate, 7:50 p.m. (Hobomock Ice Arena, Pembroke) — It’s the annual Old Oaken Bucket Game between two of the best teams on the South Shore.
Jim Clark can be contacted at [email protected]