SALEM — The Peabody High hockey team has been something akin to a runaway train this season. Once it gets going, you climb aboard — or you get out of the way.
Facing a two-goal hole with a period to play in a Division 2 North quarterfinal against Masconomet last night, the Tanners sped out of the locker room with a burst more powerful than a locomotive, scoring three goals in the first 5:47 of the final stanza to shock the Chieftains, 4-3, at the Rockett Arena.
"Who's better than us in the third period?" Tanner coach Mark Leonard wondered aloud outside a joyous locker room. His club has has won two tourney games in the same season for the second time in three years — and just the second time ever in school history.
Third-seeded Peabody (17-3-2) advances to Monday's North semifinal against No. 2 Winthrop (18-2-3) at 6 p.m. in Chelmsford. The Tanners are looking for their first ever trip to a North final and went 1-0-1 against the Vikings in Northeastern Conference play this season.
For sixth-seeded Masconomet, which wraps up 14-6-2, the result was nightmarishly similar to a regular season collapse against Peabody in which the Chieftains led 3-1 after two and lost, 5-3.
"Groundhog Day," said Masco coach Bill Blackwell. "I think we got away from what we do. Guys were trying to make the extra play, the extra move. We made things more complicated than they had to be."
The Tanner machine kicked into gear with a power play tally by Ryan Noftle 34 seconds in the frame. The junior defenseman made an outstanding play to keep the puck in the zone before putting in on net and into the twine.
"Once we made it 3-2, I really starting to believe we could get it done," said Leonard. "Noftle played about six shifts all last year and right now he's an all-star caliber defenseman. He sprinted to get to that puck and kept it on his backhand. That's all heart."