BOURNE, Mass. – They don’t ask how you do it, but Sandwich finally got the point that has eluded them for nearly two weeks.
After a magnificent start to Wednesday nights contest with Middleboro/Hull, the Blue Knights found themselves holding off a Sachem squad that was committed to playing the role of spoiler.
After gut-wrenching third-period, Sandwich escaped with a 2-2 tie with Middleboro/Hull and clinched a Div. 2 South Sectional berth in the regular season finale.
“I don’t think it was our prettiest game of the year, but we walked away with a point that we needed and something those are the toughest to get,” Sandwich coach Jordan Mohre said. “All the credit to Middleboro, they came out and competed their butt off.”
The Blue Knights dialed up the perfect start to combat that pressure that had mounted over the previous two weeks. Luke Bridges broke Sandwich onto the scoreboard at the :49 mark of the first period.
Less than four minutes late, Owen Caggiano doubled the Sandwich lead on a shot from the left wing, giving Sandwich a comfortable 2-0 lead just over four minutes into the game.
However, the Blue Knights weren’t able to match the intensity of the opening period through the remainder of the game, opening the door for Middleboro/Hull to mount a comeback, and nearly a victory.
Even though the Blue Knight outshot the Sachems 30-19 in the game, Middleboro scored the remainder of the game’s goals. At :53 of the second period Kevin Donohoe cut the deficit in half, and at :34 of the third period, Pat Richardson knotted the game at a quick wrister from the left circle.
“There is an intensity that we have to play with and when we played our best stretch, we played with that intensity for 45 minutes,” Mohre said. “We didn’t have that tonight, going to the playoffs, we need to have that all game.”
The Sachems nearly struck multiple times throughout the contest on breakaway opportunities, including three times in the second period alone, but were thwarted by goalie Craig Hatfield.
The biggest opportunity came at 6:14 of the third period, when Matt Hambly was hauled down on a breakaway, setting up a penalty shot for Donohue. Moving in with the puck on his forehand, Donohoe tried to sneak a low shot past Hatfield, but stopped it with a pad save to keep the game tied at two.
“Craig was unbelievable, three breakaways saves tonight too,” said Mohre. “The way he was competing within himself in the offseason, every year and even the way he practices everyday, that’s why he makes those saves.”
Shaking the pressure: Beginning with a 3-3 tie with Dennis-Yarmouth on February 10, a game in which the Blue Knights yielded the game-tying goal with just over a minute to play, Sandwich has needed just one point to qualify for the postseason.
However, after a pair of losses in the Jeff Hayes Memorial Tournament, and a loss to Plymouth South on Saturday, the pressure began to mount on the Blue Knights.
“I think there was a lot of pressure, since we were so close at the end of that DY game, and I feel like the rug got pulled out form under us and then had three losses against three quality teams,” Mohre explained.
Hoping to shake off that pressure early, the Blue Knights did themselves a favor by jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, playing with confidence for much of the period, but the intensity wore off.
Eyeing the postseason: With a .500 record on the season, Sandwich has locked themselves into the No. 15 seed in the Div. 2 South tournament in a 17-team field.
That means that Sandwich will open up with the second-seed in the bracket, of which three teams can paired up with the Blue Knights.
Medfield, Canton and Bishop Feehan can all earn the No. 2 seed in the bracket.
HULL/MIDDLEBORO 2, SANDWICH 2
H/M 0 1 1 – 2
Sandwich 2 0 0 – 2
First Period: 1. S-Luke Bridges (Cole Tobin), :49. 2. S-Owen Caggiano (Brady Doherty, Cole Tobin), 4:11. Penalties: H/M-1, S-1.
Second Period: 3. H/M-Kevin Donohoe (un.), :53 Penalties: H/M-0, S-1.
Third Period: 4. H/M-Pat Richardson (un.), :34. Penalties: H/M-3, S-2.
Shots On Goal:
H/M 4 8 7 – 19
Sandwich 11 9 10 – 30
Goaltenders: H/M-Mike Condon, Matt McNaughton (second period), S-Craig Hatfield.