Published in the January 25, 2019 edition.
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WILMINGTON — Stoneham and Wakefield took their rivalry away from each team’s shared home ice, the Stoneham Ice Arena, over to the Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington on Wednesday night for a Freedom clash.
It was a key game for both teams as they jockey for position in the league and continue their season-long goals of making the tournament.
It was a physical, true rivalry scrap with every bit of ice earned.
It was also more even than the score of the 4-0 Stoneham triumph indicated; a phrase often used to console the losing team, but in this case accurate.
The Warriors outshot the Spartans in two of the three periods, but Stoneham had the better opportunities and converted their chances all while riding senior goalie Colin Campbell who was just too locked in on this night.
The physicality started from the opening faceoff and lasted a full 45 minutes. Both teams were buzzing but had no great chances until Stoneham scored with 7:54 left. The Spartans converted after Wakefield goalie Justin Harding stopped the initial shot on a wide open chance in front.
Wakefield responded by upping the physicality. Captain Mike Lucey had multiple big hits all while staying in position and winning battles along the boards.
The Warriors started a relentless forecheck in the first that would carry over for most of the game. This was a focus for every line from captain Thomas Harrington, Cam Souza and Brogan Chambers to Scott Elwell, Joe O’Brien and Mike Locke, to Dan Guarino and Brendan Vacca.
A blue line shot from Evan Simoneau changed direction but Campbell was up to the task. Wakefield got another great chance late in the period when an Elwell steal led to a backhand shot but again Campbell made the stop and Stoneham held on to a 1-0 lead after one.
The second was very similar, and the end result the exact same as the first.
Stoneham had seven shots to Wakefield’s six and converted on a breakaway after a long stretch pass with 7:11 remaining.
Harding had two solid stops to start the period. Harrington and Souza continued to fight on the forecheck and win pucks deep in the Stoneham zone as the pace picked up.
Lucey lit up a on-coming Spartan attacker, abruptly putting an end to an odd-man rush. Although hard to imagine, that hit upped the physicality even more as both teams made a point to follow through and finish each check. Despite the scrappy play emulating a 2003 NHL Hitz video game, no penalties were called until Wakefield was tabbed with a tough roughing call with 3:08 remaining.
After the second Spartan goal, Cal Tryder created a turnover behind the Stoneham net and tried a wrap-around but Campbell again kept his pads glued to the ice and smothered the crease.
Elwell got another chance on a one-timer from Locke before the Spartan power play.
Guarino usually makes his presence felt every game on the penalty kill and tonight was no different. He and Harrington disrupted entries once again and Guarino picked up a steal and had a nice shorthanded bid but Campbell made a glove save to keep it at 2-0.
Wakefield earned a power play to start the third. Harding stopped a shorthanded breakaway but the Warriors had a couple of nice chances on the man-advantage one from Mike Lucey but that, along with subsequent rebound looks by Locke and O’Brien came up short.
With 10 minutes left, Wakefield was buzzing. Harrington drew a trip on a hard net drive but this time the power play seemed to be running out of steam and Stoneham’s killers picked up the energy allowing no good looks for the Warriors.
The Spartans built on that momentum with a lightning-quick strike just as the Warrior power play came to an end. Stoneham scored a back-breaker with 7:06 remaining, essentially shutting this game down at 3-0.
Stoneham put one more in at 4:04 to make it an official 4-0.
The loss was just Wakefield’s second in their last seven games. The Warriors will need to shake this off quickly as they get ready to play Woburn tomorrow, 4 p.m. at O’Brien Ice Rink. The Tanners and Warriors appear to be pretty even on paper. Woburn is tied for fourth in the Liberty Division with a 1-6-2 league record, but they have a victory over Burlington and two ties against quality programs in Lexington and Reading. Wakefield is fourth in the Freedom Division with a 2-6-1 league record. The Warriors will then host Belmont (4-8-2) on short rest Monday night in Stoneham.