By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — The post season wasn’t a part of the progress made by the Salem High hockey team this season.
But that didn’t stop the Witches from playing last night’s regular season finale against Lowell like it was a playoff bout.
Salem jumped out to an early one goal lead but couldn’t hold on against the Red Raiders in a 3-1 loss on senior night. Considering Lowell has just one game left and holds a 13-2-4 record it was quite an effort by the 5-12-3 Witches.
“We were telling anybody that would hear us this is our tournament game,” said Salem head coach Ted Hanley. “So when we went up 1-0 it was like, this is it, we are going to win this thing. The kids were pumped. Even when they (Lowell) tied it we still kept coming and kept coming. The thing I’ve coached the most is never give up. They never gave up all season didn’t give up tonight.”
Seniors Spencer Bergholz, Jake Batista and Anthony Maurais were honored before the game and each had a photo opportunity with their respective families on the ice. Behind them on the bench was Hanley, furiously employing the crowd to cheer his boys on further.
Senior Matt Andre wasn’t in attendance for the game but was honored in a previous contest.
That up-beat attitude the Witches have displayed all season is big reason why the team registered 13 points — 11 more than they had last season.
But it’s only the first step. After all it was only Hanley’s first year at the helm. The goal next year is to get even better.
“I had some goals as we went forward. I was hoping we could obtain them and we did. I wanted to see if we could get 10 points (this season) and start there.,” said Hanley. “But getting 13 right off the bat, now I’m thinking next year if we get a couple of those ties (into wins) we can put up even more points. We are looking forward to some good things. We’re a young team with our goalie coming back. I’m pumped, they’re pumped.”
Danny Heck used his blazing speed to streak through the neutral zone and down the left wing where he fired a hard wrist shot that snuck under Lowell netminder Mike Doucette’s arm pit.
Lowell tied things up on a goal from Cam Thistle before the end of the period and while neither team could break the tie in the second, the Red Raiders held a 31-4 shot advantage. Salem goalie Brett Harring (45 saves) stood on his head as he has done all season.
After the game, Lowell coach Bill Donahue admitted he hadn’t seen a better goalie all season than Harring.
“I told coach he is one of the best (goalies) we’ve seen all year and we have our share of seeing some good goalies. I don’t know if I’ve seen anybody better than him,” remarked Donahue.
Salem came out in the third period and really put the pressure on Lowell, opening the period with a 5-1 shot advantage. The Red Raiders kept the Witches off the scoreboard and after a Bergholz penalty, Ryan Sheehy tipped in a shot from the point for the game-winner. Sheehy added an insurance goal in the final minute.
“We’ve played four games in five days. Physically, mentally-we were totally exhausted. But to Salem’s credit they never gave up,” said Donahue. “They gave us everything they had.”
Bergholz finished the season with 14 goals and 10 assists and was all over the ice last night. Batista brought loads of energy when he was moved from his usual position on the blue line up to wing. The officials felt it was too much energy and assessed the senior captain his fourth penalty of the game early in the second period which resulted in Batista’s automatic ejection.
“Jake’s (Batista) the heart and soul of the team. He goes, we go. Some of those (penalties) were iffy, but it was all because he was battling and hustling and I can’t say enough about that kid,” said Hanley. “The way he leads the team and his passion. He’s like a coach on the ice for me and it helped out so much.”
Maurais meanwhile played well, helping kill a penalty in the first period and was used effectively on the power-play in the third period. Hanley opted to stick his big defenseman in front of the net and Maurais battled for position in what proved to be the best Salem power-play opportunity of the net.