SAUGUS — While last week’s games didn’t represent a “make-it or break it” situation for North Reading hockey, with more than half a season still ahead, there was certainly a lot at stake as the Hornets took to the ice against a pair of the Cape Ann League’s premier programs.

Last Wednesday evening, North Reading christened the newly-renovated Kasabuski Rink with a convincing 5-2 defeat over archrival Lynnfield. And Saturday, the Hornets traveled to face the Triton Vikings and came away with a hard-fought one goal triumph, 3-2.

North Reading has now won seven straight and as of this report, moved up to 9th in the Mass Division 3 rankings. Lynnfield, following the loss to the Hornets, fell from 5th to 10th overall. Triton is a distant 27th. But foremost for Coach Brian McAuliffe, who improved to 7-1 overall, is his team’s status in the League.

“One of our goals from the very beginning has been to win the League,” said the coach. “After beating Lynnfield and now, Triton, we’re undefeated in the League and in good position as we head into the second half of the season.”

Advanced-billed as a heavyweight bout between two CAL contenders, the first season meeting between North Reading and Lynnfield did not quite stack up the way many thought it would. Chase Carney put the Pioneers in front in the first minute of play but then it was all North Reading, reeling off four unanswered goals to assume command.

“Lynnfield is a great team and their powerful first line took it to us early,” said McAuliffe who, along with his staff and players, was quite pleased to return home to the new and improved Kasabuski. “That seems to be a flaw in the character of our team. We tend to give up an early goal – this is the third game we’ve done that. But fortunately, we’ve been able to correct things before it gets out of hand.”

Off a feed from Matt Young, defenseman Matt Ryan buried the equalizer at 8:29 of the first, beating goalie Phinneas Mitchener from the left point. Minutes later, Andrew Daley collected a pass from Cole Lopilato and put the Hornets in front, 2-1. Before time was out on the first frame, Dean Rooney picked up the eventual game-winner, from Landon Phillips. Joseph Collins made it 4-1, from Brendan Rooney, at the outset of the second.

Lynnfield doubled up the Hornets in shots, 38-19, which is just more evidence as to how good Blake McMeniman is between the pipes. The Pioneers did manage to put a goal behind him in the second but a further threat did not materialize.

“Blake is the real deal,” said McAuliffe. “While the defense did a good job clearing it out in front and giving him good vision on the puck, he needed to make some huge saves. He was clearly the MVP of our team in this win.”

Dean Rooney added his eighth goal of the season with an empty-netter in the final minute.

The North Reading faithful who braved 5-degrees outdoors, and not much warmer inside at Graf Rink, were treated to a classic “edge of your seat” Saturday matinee.

Hornet blue-liner Matt Young beat Triton goalie Wes Rollins with a go-ahead goal at 8:42 of the first, unassisted. He was followed minutes later by Daley, whose unassisted tally helped him claim the team scoring lead with 12-points (8-goals, 4 assists).

The Hornets gave one back early in the second when Triton speedster Cole Daniels capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. But with 5:26 left, Matt Ryan restored the 2-goal lead, from Lopilato and Daley.

North Reading goalie Sam Elliott yielded one early in the third but stonewalled Triton for the remainder of the game, fending off 10-shots. He was particularly effective when the Vikings were handed a late power play and later, when they traded Rollins for an extra attacker.

“That’s a well-coached, physical team that ended our season last year,” sad McAuliffe. “It was a good old-fashioned Saturday afternoon hockey game, with plenty of back-and-forth. Sam stood on his head and made some tremendous saves. This was a well-played game and a well-deserved win.”

North Reading hosted Newburyport Wednesday night (results in after press time) and will travel to Veteran’s Rink in Haverhill to face Pentucket on Saturday evening at 5 p.m.