STONEHAM — Middle Lane Drive.
It’s not a tony section of Hamilton, nor is it a bucolic area of Wenham. But it was certainly key to the high school hockey team’s first playoff win in a dozen seasons.
The phrase refers to the scoring area in front of an opponent’s net where the Generals felt their best scoring chances would emanate from, and it’s a strategy that worked to perfection Thursday night.
Senior left wing Aidan Heney scored three times as Hamilton-Wenham blitzed its way past Latin Academy, 6-1, at Stoneham Arena in a Division 3 North first round playoff contest.
“One thing we’ve been talking about about all season is that MLD,” said Heney, who now has 10 goals on the season. “We always have to have someone there in that area waiting for the puck. I was just trying to be that guy for us.”
The Generals (now 9-7-5) define ‘middle lane drive’ as the area in front of an opponent’s net, low and in the slot. Before the contest, assistant coach Todd Ryan took out a sheet of paper, which approximated the ice surface, and drew five small circles around the Dragons’ net, indicating the spots his team would best be served from shooting from.
“He said, ‘This is where we’re going to win or lose the game from,’” Generals head coach Rob Ryan said of his brother’s pre-game talk. “We had to get to those greasy areas and pounce on any rebounds that were there.”
Hamilton-Wenham did just that, with four of their six goals scored in that fashion.
“We put pucks on net consistently and got a lot of rebound goals. It all came together tonight,” Heney said.
Heney deposited a loose puck high into the net off a Cam Guyer breakaway bid that was initially stopped in the second period, giving the Generals a 3-1 lead. He then cemented his team’s victory with a pair of third period tallies: one on a bullet from between the circles after a faceoff win by Colby Guyer, and the second coming off a feed from captain Will Hogan.
Not bad for a player who took last year off.
“I told Heney after the game, ‘You just stepped on their throats.’ He really went out there and put them away and got us this W,” said goaltender Finn Brophy, who finished with 18 saves.
Hamilton-Wenham’s five-man defensive unit of captain Clint Gourdeau, Luke McClintock, Kevin Murphy, Zack Walles and Seamus Heney kept clear lanes in front of Brophy and cleared the puck out of trouble whenever the situation called for it. “You didn’t see too many second chances for them. That’s a testament to our defense; they played a very clean game,” Rob Ryan said.
Hamilton-Wenham, the No. 7 seed in the sectional, now advances to take on second seeded Lowell (13-5-2) Sunday at the Chelmsford Forum at 4:30 p.m.
The Generals took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after James Horgan snapped a shot from the lower left circle that eluded Latin Academy’s eighth grade netminder, Aiden Ellis. The goal was the eighth of the season for Horgan and it came on assists by captain Aidan Daly and McClintock.
Latin Academy tied it up early in the second period when Brendan Butler won an offensive zone faceoff over to linemate Joe Loewen, and the junior from West Roxbury ripped a shot home from between the circles. But that’s as close as Latin Academy would get the rest of the night.
Sophomore Colby Guyer got the lead back for the Generals a little over three minutes later, stationing himself in front of the Dragons net before tipping Gourdeau’s shot from the point past Ellis. The first of Heney’s three goals made it 3-1, and just 13 seconds later, Hamilton-Wenham increased its lead to three. With the puck loose in the slot, junior center Matt Dearborn poked at it and pushed it over the goal line.
“There’s a lot of pride wearing that H-W sweater,” said Brophy, “and we wanted to prove to ourselves we could win a tournament game this year, and prove to others that Hamilton and Wenham are great hockey communities.”
Hamilton-Wenham 6, Latin Academy 1
Division 3 North first round
at Stoneham Arena
Latin Academy 0 1 0 — 1
Hamilton-Wenham 1 3 2 — 6
First period: HW, James Horgan (Aidan Daly, Luke McClintock), 4:22.
Second period: LA, Joe Loewen (Brendan Butler), 4:04; HW, Colby Guyer (Clint Gourdeau), 7:45; HW, Aidan Heney (Cam Guyer, Zack Walles), 11:12; HW, Matt Dearborn (Daly, Horgan), 11:25.
Third period: HW, Heney (Colby Guyer), 4:44; Heney (Will Hogan), 8:44.
Saves: LA, Aiden Ellis 20, Andrew Sahatjian 6; HW, Finn Brophy 18.
Records: HW, 9-7-5; LA, 8-9-4.