D4 Elite 8: DS-Weston and Winthrop Advance to Final Four

Stoneham, MA – MassNZ made the trip out to soggy Stoneham Arena for Elite 8 action and to see two tickets get punched to the D4 Final 4. Competing first tonight were four-seed Sandwich Blue Knights and the five-seed Dover-Sherborn/Weston Raiders. We arrived just as the action began and the arena was about 40% full given the 5pm start time, but full credit to both schools who bought vocal student populations. On we went to see who would advance.

In the first period, the action was fairly even as both teams got settled in and looked to set their own pace. Both teams thrived off transition and looked to engage with their feet early and quality ice was at a premium. Seven minutes into the period it would be DS-Weston who would break the ice. There was a battle for the puck a few feet from the left post and a quick shot by freshman Patrick Benson found its way into the net to make it 1-0 Raiders. Shortly following this tally, the Blue Knights pushed back and picked up the physicality and just over three minutes later they posted a response. Sophomore Nick Buckland whipped a puck out of the corner and found Jack Hughes who was charging to the far post and he slipped it under the goalie to make it 1-1. The remainder of the period favored Sandwich as they had a spring in their step and they were feeling good headed to the room all tied up.

In the second period, the physicality and the defenses largely won out. Both teams were able to clear pucks out of dangerous areas and were challenging ice to prevent attacks from getting into Grade A ice. The Sandwich forecheck was quick and strong and limited DS-Weston’s breakout multiple times. The Raiders used their size in the back end to squelch the Blue Knights’ cycle and exit their zone quickly. It seemed like we were in a stalemate for the first half of the period, that is until we weren’t. Eight minutes into the frame a slick move along the boards gave junior Brayden McKenna possession and he whipped it to the netfront where senior Max Nilt threw a knuckler over the Sandwich goalie to make it 2-1. From there, the Raiders were able to tighten up and didn’t allow many good looks. There was a flurry of activity in the Sandwich end just as time was expiring and the Raiders headed to the locker room with the momentum on their side, up 2-1.

In the third period, it was nip and tuck the whole way and neither team refused to give an inch. The opening minutes featured a push by Sandwich but following that, it was a defensive clinic put on DS-Weston. They were able to get their sticks in on the hands of Sandwich players and created turnover after turnover in their defensive zone. They then relied on tossing the puck in from the red line and chasing it down with their speed as their modus operandi. Sandwich punished them hard for doing so, but the Raiders popped right back up. The ice was tilted more and more towards DS-Weston the deeper we went and Sandwich made their push starting with 10 minutes to go on a power play. The Raiders ended up killing it and on we went. Sandwich later pulled their goalie with two minutes to go and they put a barrage of shots on senior Andrew Goldstein for DS-Weston. He stood tall to every shot and the Raiders escaped with a 2-1 win. they advance to face the winner of Winthrop and Ashland in the second game.

Three Stars: 

  1. F Max Nilt, DS-Weston
  2. G Andrew Goldstein, DS-Weston
  3. D Sawyer Garzone, DS-Weston


Elite 8 Game 2: Winthrop Vikings vs Ashland Clockers

Stoneham, MA – In the second game of tonight’s doubleheader MassNZ stuck around to take in the other half of the D4 bracket as the top-seeded Winthrop Vikings faced off against the upstart 24-seed Ashland Clockers. This game would decide who would go on to face DS-Weston for a chance to play at the TD Garden on March 17. This game featured a capacity crowd in big student numbers featuring a construction theme vs a USA theme, which seems to be the theme of choice this season amongst the students in an election year. Either way, the rink perked up in a big way for this tilt.

In the first period, we barely had time to post on social that the game had started before a star emerged. It’s that dude who has been a stud all season long in Winthrop senior captain Petey Silverman. Just 53 seconds in, he grabbed a pass from junior Luke Githinji and fired a rocket top corner to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead. The student section was going delirious and we wondered if this was a harbinger of things to come in this game. As both teams began to settle in you could see a pattern developing. Ashland liked to move the puck up ice with speed but they were encountering a speed from Winthrop that they hadn’t seen yet this year. The early minutes were all an adjustment period and they were able to weather the storm. As the period wore on, Winthrop continued to wear down Ashland and peppered the net with shots from all over the attacking zone. Ashland got more comfortable as the period wound down and created a couple of nice scoring chances. But it would be Winthrop who would find the scoreboard next. It was that man again: Silverman who grabbed a faceoff win from junior Phil Boncore and fired another rocket top shelf to cleanly beat the goalie and make it 2-0 Winthrop with three minutes to go. That’s how the frame would end as the Vikings had the momentum on their side.

In the second period, it started early for Winthrop and the dam broke offensively for Ashland. The opening shifts for Winthrop were quick and they created a couple of chances and would cash in 2:38 in as Silverman finished at the netfront to complete the natural hat trick in just over 17 minutes of game action. Just 23 seconds later Winthrop would add to their lead as junior Michael Holgersen potted one at the net to make it 4-0. After that it was all Winthrop, save for a couple of great shifts for the top senior line of Ashland who created two scoring chances. At the 9:25 mark, Holgersen would add his second of the night by crashing the crease and stashing it home. Three minutes later it was Boncore who would add to the lead with a quick shot in the slot which made it 6-0. He added another tally a minute and a half later as he drifted to the slot and buried: 7-0 Winthrop. That’s how the second would end and this third period most likely would end in running time, per the new MIAA rule enacted for this season with a goal margin of over six.

In the third period, running time was indeed enacted and Ashland came out of the gate playing physical. They took a penalty right off the hop but it did not burn them as they were able to get the kill. After the power play the Winthrop coaching staff largely sat down the team’s top line and the remaining lines got quite a bit of ice time. Full credit goes to Ashland as they were still pushing the pace and working hard to create chances offensively all the way to the buzzer, which came exactly 15 minutes after the period had started and the game ended in a 7-0 shutout for junior Michael Donahue of Winthrop. The Vikings will face DS-Weston for a trip to the Garden at Gallo Arena on March 9 at 2:30pm.

Three Stars:

  1. F Petey Silverman, Winthrop
  2. G Michael Donahue, WInthrop
  3. F Phil Boncore, Winthrop