Bang! Pow! Zap!!!

Jason Campos

It was only a matter of time before it happened. A closely contested ECAC East quarterfinal hockey game between the Beacons of UMass-Boston and the Pilgrims of New England College erupted into a full scale, on-ice melee that sent five Beacons to an early shower. Aside from the pugilism, the Pilgrims had four different players tally goals as NEC defeated UMB on the scoreboard, 4-2, at Lee Clement Arena in Henniker, New Hampshire. The victory for New England College sets them up against Massachusetts College.

The bad blood between the two teams started last weekend when both squads faced off on Saturday February 16 to conclude the regular season. The Pilgrims scored seven goals and the third period was marked by a substantial amount of penalties on both sides.

It seemed as if this playoff game would be no different. However, the referees saw little wrong with the play of both teams, especially that of the Pilgrims, who thought that the contest would be one where the Beacons would roll over and die.

A few Beacons let the Pilgrims know right from the start that they had shown up to play. Goaltender Craig Paster of UMB made an excellent save on a NEC 2-on-1 in the opening minute.

Early forechecking and backchecking helped brings the Beacons to a 1-0 lead. Beacon Geoff Down got control of the puck on the Pilgrim blue line, proceeded to do a 360, and fed the puck to an open Jon Berard. Berard sent an offspeed slapshot, which fooled Pilgrim goaltender Ryan Thomas, into the net.

The Pilgrims created some offensive chances, but Paster was equaled to the task. One spectacular save by the Beacon goaltender came while UMB was on the power play. Pilgrim Travis Banga was sent on a breakaway, but Paster came up with a big right pad stop to keep the NEC scoreless.

The Pilgrims did tie the game before the first intermission. The two teams were scraping for the puck in the left offensive corner of the Pilgrims. Pilgrim Ryan Brewer gained possession and fed the puck to the center of the ice, where Nick Warriner was stationed out front. Warriner ripped the puck and beat Paster high.

The latter half of the first period saw a very physical game on the part of both teams and it continued in the second period. Frustration could be seen in the Pilgrims players, as scoring opportunities went by the board. Although the Beacons were penalized for their infractions, the Pilgrims were shorthanded only twice in the first two periods. UMB had good penalty killing to keep them in the game.

NEC did take a 2-1 lead when Banga streaked down the left side, headed toward the middle, and blistered a shot past Paster, who was screened. It was two minutes later when the ugliness broke out.

Just before the horn sounded to signal the end of the second period, Beacon Julian Giantonio leveled what looked like a clean hit on a Pilgrim player. As the Beacons headed on to the ice to go to the locker room, Pilgrim Adam Wallace came crashing into Giantonio. Players on both teams squared off and before anyone knew what was happening, all you-know-what broke loose.

An incensed Beacon assistant coach Dan Doyle voiced his outrage between periods. “The refs ruined the game. That was a good game for two periods. One of our guys hit one of their guys at the end of the period. It’s customary after the period ends to go the goalie. One thing led to another and then…”

After a lengthy second intermission, the teams came back from the locker room, where UMB found out that five of their players, including the starting goaltender Paster, were ejected from the game. Also gone for the night were Giantonio, Mike Bertoni, James Gilbert, and Mike Mantenuto. The Pilgrims had four players ejected, but they ended up with a power play.

Dan McGonigle came in to replace Paster, and he did a good job stopping the puck in the first few minutes until Chris Sad scored with one second left on the power play.

However, the Beacons did not quit. The Pilgrims committed some foolish penalties, and the Beacons had a two-man advantage for two minutes. During the power play, Mikey O’Sullivan found a wide-open Jeff Pellegrini, who ripped the puck past Thomson to close the gap to one goal. Unfortunately, the Beacons did not manage to land many shots on goal after their second goal and the Pilgrims sealed the game with a little over a minute left to play when Pilgrim Ron Dupuis flipped the puck over a sprawled McGonigle, who had made the initial save for the final score.

After the game, Beacon coach Joe Mallen could only shake his head in disgust when talking about the events that transpired at the end of the second period. “I’ve been in this game for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. The refs lost control in the first period.”

Mallen was incredulous and furious about the referees’ assessment of the penalties as well. “They threw out our best player, Mantenuto, and he wasn’t even on the original penalty list that was given to me. Why not throw out number 44 (Banga of NEC)?”