By Phil Stacey
---- — NEWBURYPORT — It's the first of what the Masconomet Regional hockey team hopes are multiple titles forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead.
Junior Joe Griffin had two goals and dished out three assists as the Chieftains rolled over Cape Ann League rival Amesbury, 6-1, to win the 19th annual Newburyport Bank Classic's Gulazian Division championship last night at the Graf Rink.
"There have been times this season it seemed like we were lazy on the road, but that wasn't the case (in this tournament)," said the 17-year-old Griffin, a 17-year-old defenseman-turned-first line left winger for Masconomet. "We came out skating well and got our momentum going in that first period."
Griffin had his team's first two goals, including one with the man advantage, while centers Jared Brann (on the power play) and Mike Castro also scored before the first period ended to give the Chieftains a 4-0 lead after 15 minutes. Senior defenseman Jake Jesi and Brann added second period goals to help secure the victory.
Tournament MVP Mitch Nekoroski stopped 16 shots in goal for the win before giving way to fellow senior Jason Begley (4 saves) for the game's final five minutes.
"We worked on getting out to a fast start," said Nekoroski, who won his 13th game of the season. "We wanted to establish ourselves early and get out of the funk we've been in a few times at the start of games."
Now 13-4-2 overall, Masconomet will play its final regular season game tonight at Saugus (6 p.m.) with a chance to earn a share of the Cape Ann League title.
The Chieftains rolled four lines (even employing a 13th forward in the third period) and seven defensemen, constantly rolling out fresh bodies. Constantly moving their feet and working the puck down the wall and into the Indians' end resulted in their third straight victory.
It was also their fifth straight win in which the Chieftains allowed just one goal.
"Once we got our confidence going, we started to roll," said head coach Andrew Jackson, whose team outshot Amesbury 29-23. "We're playing really well at a key point of the season."
Amesbury's lone goal came 11:04 into the second period when J.T. Chamberlain fended off a Masconomet defender and muscled a backhand home. But that was all the Indians could muster.
"This was a big win, especially since we hope to win (the CAL title tonight)," said Nekoroski.
"Absolutely," added Griffin. "Then it's our goal to go far into the state tournament."