Let’s do some real quick hitters — 30-second shifts, in hockey parlance — to start off the New Year:
The third annual Mike Clifford Memorial Game this Saturday at Salem State’s Rockett Arena (2:20 p.m.) isn’t just a big game for the Danvers and Peabody hockey programs because Clifford stood behind the bench for both squads, but also because they’re both in need of a victory to start the new year off right.
Both are coming off of heartbreaking losses: the Tanners surrendered three goals in the final 206 seconds yesterday at Methuen to fall to the host Rangers, 4-2, ending their modest two-game winning streak; Danvers, meanwhile, gave up the game-winning goal to Division 1 Melrose with four seconds to play in falling, 3-2, in the Kasabuski Christmas Classic’s American Division championship game.
The Falcons and Tanners will enter Saturday’s game with matching 2-4 records. With the calendar turning to 2014, points are at a premium for both of these playoff hopefuls.
Peabody seems to have settled its goaltending situation with sophomore Freddy Robitaille between the pipes — although talented freshman Aaron McConnell will continue to push him for playing time. Defensemen like Guiseppe Zarro, Cam Smullen and Donny Shaw must continue to focus on getting the puck out of their own zone and providing clear shooting lanes for their goaltender.
Up front, Peabody speedsters like Derek Demild, Mike Vadala, Bobby Caproni, Reed Foster and Andrew ‘Biscuits’ Bisconti have to play aggressively in all three zones, battle for rebounds out front and bury the chances they get offensively.
It’s more of the same for the Falcons, who will be hosting just their second game of the season. Scant few practices prior to the season beginning didn’t help in terms of the Blue-and-White jelling, but now that they’ve had a chance to do so (they’ll enter Saturday’s game not having played in eight days), the team cohesion factor should be markedly improved. Accepting, and moving on, from a tough loss against Melrose will also help the maturation process.