Published in the March 9, 2016 edition

SENIOR CAPTAIN Dan O’Leary (3) scored a goal in the second period during Lynnfield’s 2-1 loss to Boston Latin in the first round of the Division 2 North state tournament March. 1. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

SENIOR CAPTAIN Dan O’Leary (3) scored a goal in the second period during Lynnfield’s 2-1 loss to Boston Latin in the first round of the Division 2 North state tournament March. 1. (Dan Tomasello Photo)


WATERTOWN — The hockey team’s first appearance in the Division 2 North state tournament in four years came to a heartbreaking end when the 12th seeded Pioneers fell 2-1 in overtime to fifth seed Boston Latin during the first round of the tournament at John Ryan Arena in Watertown March 1.

“I told everybody in the locker room I have nothing but love and pride in my heart for how they played,” said Pioneers head coach Jon Gardner. “They played their hearts out. The big thing was not just getting into the tournament but making some noise and just experiencing the tournament, which they did. We told them it was going to be a rollercoaster ride with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We experienced all of that and everything in between.”

The contest between the Pioneers and Wolfpack was deadlocked at one at the end of the third period, forcing overtime. The first half of overtime was a defensive battle between both teams. Junior Johnny Percoskie had a chance to score with 2:37 remaining in the overtime but Boston Latin’s goalie stopped the shot.

Senior captain Rob LoConte had a chance to score with 1:55 remaining in overtime but that shot was also stopped.

Boston Latin sophomore Nick O’Connell scored a buzzer-beating goal with three seconds remaining in overtime, sealing the Wolfpack’s 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

“Boston Latin is a really good team,” said Gardner. “They pack it in. This rink felt a little smaller and we really couldn’t get anything going. Boston Latin did a good job protecting their goalie.”

Lynnfield and Boston Latin each tried generating some offense in the first period but neither squad managed to find the back of the net. Lynnfield goalie David Langone made some big saves in the contest, which enabled the Pioneers and Wolfpack to remain deadlocked at zero at the end of the first period.

“We were concerned about having a 10-day lay off between games and Boston Latin played right up until last Thursday,” said Gardner. “We tried getting some scrimmages in because we knew they would come at us. It was just a matter of weathering the storm and it was huge we were able to get into the room tie 0-0. We focused on the first five minutes, making some plays and just holding them back. And we did.”

Junior Dan O’Leary gave the Pioneers a 1-0 lead after scoring a goal in front of the net with 10:56 remaining in the second period. Sophomore Cooper Marengi and freshman Jagger Benson were credited with the assists.

“We challenged (O’Leary) to go to the goal more instead of shooting from the perimeter,” said Gardner. “He did that a lot more down the stretch. Baseball is his sport and you couldn’t tell he has a busted thumb and was playing injured. He left it all out there.”

Langone made several key saves for the locals, including a show-stopping glove save. He also prevented the Wolfpack from scoring on a rebound attempt.

Boston Latin tied the game at one after senior defenseman Danny Linso scored a goal with 1:52 remaining in the second period.

The third period was delayed after a Zamboni malfunctioned and arena officials had to resolve the matter.

“We were actually happy with it,” said Gardner. “We were primarily playing D and we needed our guys to get a bit of a rest. The locker room was kind of hot and with the sheer emotions of being in the tournament, you are going to have an adrenaline rush and feel gassed.”

Lynnfield had several chances to score during the third period including a shot from Percoskie but the game remained deadlocked at one as the buzzer sounded, forcing overtime.

Gardner praised the Pioneers’ performance against Boston Latin.

“I am so proud of all of them,” said Gardner. “It was a good team effort. I know its painful but its part of the game. We blocked over 20 shots and we battled.”

Gardner also praised Langone’s performance against the Wolfpack.

“This was the best game of Dave’s high school career,” said Gardner. “The first goal Boston Latin scored, he cramped up in the middle of that scrum and he very well could have had another one. What a way to step up.”

Gardner also praised sophomore Tyler Murphy’s performance.

“(Murphy) really picked it up since we went to Martha’s Vineyard,” said Gardner. “He played forward, switched to D and at the end of the year, switched back to forward. His engine kept going. He made simple, smart and tough plays.”

Gardner commended the Pioneers’ defensive line, particularly assistant captain Matt Miller.

“Our defense played excellent,” said Gardner. “Matt Miller had a tremendous game. Our goal was to stay out of the box and shut down their first line. And that first line had nothing on us.”

The Pioneers will be saying goodbye to 10 seniors this year: O’Leary, LoConte, Miller, assistant captain Greg Miles, assistant captain Derek Crampe, Jack Ganter, Billy Cole, Nick Fiorentino, Parker Rhode and John Caruso.

“I can’t say enough good things about our seniors,” said Gardner. “It’s painful but they battled their hearts out and its great they got to experience the tournament. It would have been awesome for them if we got the game winner. We are going to miss all our seniors immensely.”

The Pioneers will have a strong core returning next year including Benson, Langone and Murphy.

“We are losing a lot but we have some key guys back,” said Gardner. “Having our defense and Dave on the back end is huge when you are losing a lot of forwards.”