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February 5, 2014

The Blue Line Report: Witches sweeping in on a coveted playoff berth

(Continued)

That classic jacket has been getting passed around frequently; the red-hot Chieftains (9-3-2) have won three in a row and six of their last seven contests. In their last eight games they’ve surrendered a grand total of eight goals and have limited their opponents to scant few shots; team defense has outstanding in front of senior goaltender Mitch Nekoroski (8-2-2 with a sterling 1.59 goals-against average), who is becoming a stalwart between the pipes. All told, they’ve given up just 25 goals in 14 games.

Scoring (48 goals) hasn’t been overly plentiful, but it’s been a case of not how many goals Masconomet scores but the timeliness of those goals. Costello (2 goals, 3 assists vs. Pentucket) has 14 points; an intelligent player, he moved from forward to defense as Joe Griffin (18 points) took his game from the back end to the forward corps. Junior Mike Castro (a team-leading 9 goals and 16 points) is emerging as a clutch scorer, too.

The Cape Ann League title is also within Masconomet’s grasp; at 7-1-2 (16 points), they current sit a point back of front-running North Reading (8-1-1) and both squads still have four league matchups remaining.

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Now that they’ve officially been eliminated from playoff contention, what does head coach Mark Leonard want to see out of his Peabody Tanners down the season’s homestretch?

”Honestly, I’d like to see them keep playing the way they have been,” said Leonard. “We’ve been playing pretty well, but have had no luck at all. We’re better than our record.”

There’s merit to Leonard’s words. The Tanners (4-10-2) have given up a shade over two goals a game over their last half-dozen contests and, quite honestly, the puck hasn’t bounced their way much, if at all, over the last two months. Lack of offensive finish, third period collapses, five empty net goals allowed ... they’ve all contributed to the team’s woes.

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