Three first period goals prove decisive for Melrose

WARRIOR PLAYERS Anthony Funicella (#8) and Ty Collins (#22) chase a loose puck with a pair of Melrose players. Funicella assisted on of the Wakefield goals but the Warriors came up short in a 3-2 contest. (Donna Larsson Photo)

WARRIOR PLAYERS Anthony Funicella (#8) and Ty Collins (#22) chase a loose puck with a pair of Melrose players. Funicella assisted on of the Wakefield goals but the Warriors came up short in a 3-2 contest. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the January 11, 2016 edition.


SAUGUS — The Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ hockey team got back into Middlesex League play against rival Melrose on Saturday evening as the two squared off at the Kasabuski Arena. It was a Melrose home game, so the Warriors took the ice as the visitors.

It was a tightly contested battle between the two but Melrose was able to stave off a host of Wakefield scoring opportunities throughout the game and hang on to win the game, 3-2, after scoring three goals in the first period.

The win was the first of the year in the league for the Red Raiders.

The game started relatively even, and remained that way throughout. Each team getting an early chance to get on the power play but neither team capitalized early in the game.

“The effort was there,” Warrior head coach Chris Gianatassio said. “We’re definitely proud of the effort.”

The first real golden chance to score came for the Warriors with 4:30 to go in the first period. Some jostling for the puck at center ice result in Wakefield’s Dave Melanson skating in on goal. The angle was narrow and Melanson’s shot went straight into the chest of the Melrose goalie, Collin Kiernan, who finished with 15 saves on the night.

Melrose got the opening goal not long after Melanson’s chance, as the Red Raiders broke down the ice and rushed the net of Tyler Pugsley. After making an initial stop, on the breakaway attempt, Melrose kept the puck in the Warriors’ end. From the point, Melrose defender Jacob Kleis let a wrist shot fly that beat Pugsley and put the Warriors behind by a goal with 3:53 remaining in the first period.

The Warriors wasted no time in responding to the opening goal by Melrose as they controlled the ensuing face-off and Pat Leary marched in on goal and beat Kiernan to tie the score at 1-1 with 3:45 to play in period one.

It was about a minute and a half after Leary netted to tied the score when Melrose jumped back ahead. After taking a penalty and going a man down, the Red Raiders used the extra skater to their advantage and were able to re-establish a lead thanks to Calvin MacDonald making it 2-1.

With even numbers back on the ice, Wakefield tried once again to level things up right away but this time Kiernan shut the door. With Melrose clearing the puck and maintaining possession, it was able to set up what would prove to be the all important third goal. With 46 seconds to go in the first period, Zach Phipps of Melrose made it 3-1.

“We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole in the beginning down 3-1 after the first period, so we had to fight back from that,” said the coach after the game.

Despite the late period mishaps, Wakefield played with admirable spirit and fought hard to stay with Melrose every step of the way. In the second period, the Warriors got a chance to show what they are made of and start to turn the tide on Melrose.

“We had a good second period, we were playing well,” Gianatassio said.

The Warriors scored the only second period goal. It was Anthony Funicella, who was a beast in the face-off circle all game, who caused a turnover in neutral ice and broke away down ice for the Warriors. His initial shot was stopped but the rebound came back to him and he neatly fed freshman forward Thomas Harrington who slotted it past Kiernan in the Melrose net to cut the lead to 3-2 with 8:54 to go in the second period.

The story of the second period was the work of Wakefield’s sophomore goalie Pugsley, who stopped 14 of his 24 saves in the second. Wakefield got into a bit of trouble going a man down when Leary took a pair of consecutive penalties for a hook, then for a trip seconds after leaving the box to give Melrose some extended time with an extra skater.

“We took a couple of penalties and the penalties really halted our forecheck that we had going,” the Warriors’ coach said. “Five on five we were the better team. I think we had three or four penalties in the second period and that just really gave the momentum back to Melrose. Then we had to fight back.”

On the two power plays, the Red Raiders ripped off 11 total shots but Pugsley was able to stand in the way of each one and keep Melrose off the board.

“He played great, he’s done a nice job for us back there,” the coach said of Pugsley in net.

Wakefield kept battling for every puck and got some great senior leadership from the likes of Funicella, Steve Marino and Dylan Melanson.

Pugsley remained on fire throughout the second period and Funicella threw some hits in open ice that brought the Red Sea to its feet, something that coach Gianatassio noticed across the ice.

“The atmosphere is very good right now,” the coach said. “We’re very lucky to have the ‘Red Sea’ with us and every game it gets better so we appreciate their help, it makes it a lot of fun for us.”

However on the ice, the Warriors weren’t able to string together the sequence of passes that would open up the defense and allow them to equalize. With one period to play, Wakefield trailed by a 3-2 score.

The heat turned up in the final period, but Wakefield was unable to score the equalizing goal it worked so hard to get. In the end it was the Warriors calling for timeout with about a minute and a half to play, as Coach Gianatassio removed Pugsley from the net in favor of the extra skater. It was a move that Gianatassio used to perfection in the previous Middlesex League game against Stoneham when Marino was able to net a last second goal to tie the score at 3-3.

This time around, the Warriors knew exactly how to play it and once again found their opportunities to score. Kiernan was not to be beaten again, however, as the Warriors let fly a handful of shots late in the period. But the Melrose goalie denied every effort by the Warriors.

“I thought we were going to have it at the end, too,” Gianatassio said. “We need to have a better start.”

The win marks the first league win for Melrose for the 2015-16 season, but the Warriors drop to .500 with the loss with their overall record now standing at 3-3-2.

Next time out, on Wednesday, Wakefield will face perhaps its toughest test of the season as they welcome in a ranked opponent when Burlington visits the Kasabuski.

“They’re a ranked team. We see a lot of those in the Middlesex League so we’re used to it. But it’ll be a big test for us,” Gianatassio said of the next game. “I think the team is really coming together.  They’re a great group of guys. They love to play and they play for each other.

“We’re very happy, we’re very happy with the progress right now,” the coach went on. “We’re right where we want to be, if we can stay at .500 we’ll qualify for the tournament.”


At Kasabuski Arena, Saugus

WAKEFIELD………1  1  0 — 2

Melrose……………..3  0  0 — 3


First Period — Mel, Kleis (Guttadauro, Karelas) 11:07. Wak, Leary (un.) 11:15. Mel, MacDonald (Phipps, Burton) 12:44. Mel, Guttadauro (Anderson, Kleis) 14:14.

Second Period — Wak, Harrington (Funicella) 6:06.

Third Period — No Scoring.

Shots on Goal — Wakefield 17 shots. Melrose 27.

Goalies — Wak, Pugsley (27 shots – 24 saves). Mel, Kiernan (17-15).