Agony in Overtime
FITCHBURG -- The last two seasons, the Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley boys’ hockey team has reached new heights.
Northbridge 2 Lunenburg 1
Not only did the Blue Knights capture the Central Mass. Division 3A title last year, but they went on to win the state title.
So, expectations were high coming into this year.
On Sunday night, the quest to repeat ended abruptly. In a game where neither team deserved to lose, it was the third-seeded Blue Knights who found themselves on the short end of a thrilling 2-1 overtime loss to fourth-seeded Northbridge High in the Central Mass. Division 3A final at the Wallace Civic Center.
“We did everything that we planned on doing tonight,” said Lunenburg High head coach Eric Short, whose team finished the season with a record of 15-7-1. “We contained their best player other than the power-play goal. We followed our game plan, but just didn’t get the bounces. I thought it was an even game the whole way through into overtime. I just thought it was just two solid teams that went toe to toe. We got the bounce the other night in overtime against Hopedale and Northbridge got the bounce tonight.”
After three periods with the game deadlocked at 1-1, the fans were on the edge of their seats as the teams prepared for overtime.
Following a strong rush from Lunenburg, Northbridge got into the offensive zone and that’s when Liam Gil set up Nick Locurto, who sent a shot from inside the blue line that found its way past Blue Knight goalie Nick Granger, sending the Rams to the state semifinals.
Lunenburg got on the board first in this one as star Connor Viviano’s wrist shot from the circle beat goalie Chris Wells, giving the Blue Knights a 1-0 lead just 2:36 into the contest. Joey Robinson and Nathan Handy recorded assists on the Viviano score.
Following a scoreless middle period, Northbridge got the equalizer just 51 seconds into the final period when Gill scored a power-play goal on a pass from Locurto.
Over the final 14 minutes, both teams had scoring opportunities, but both goalies were up for the challenge, setting up the Locurto heroics in overtime.
“I just told the kids in the locker room that they have absolutely nothing be ashamed of or put their heads down,” Short said. “They did everything they possibly could, but we just didn’t get the goal in overtime. We met all our goals this season. We got back to the title game even though we battled some injuries and suspensions, and we were right up at the top again.”