CHELMSFORD — The past few days have been exactly what the Triton hockey team needed.
Heading into the annual Lion’s Cup Holiday Tournament, the Vikings had suffered three straight losses to talented programs in Winthrop, Newburyport and Bedford. But the annual holiday tourney gave the Vikings an opportunity: Win of pair of games, and get back to .500 before the new year.
Oh yeah, and defend your Lion’s Cup title from a year ago.
And truth be told, the Vikings weren’t ready to step down as “Kings of the Pride” just yet.
After a 3-1 victory over Danvers in the opening round on Wednesday, Triton rolled back into the championship game on Friday night ready to repeat. Which the Vikings were able to do in rather dominant fashion, getting a 35-save shutout from junior goalie Gavin Marengi to blank host Chelmsford, 3-0.
“This was our best performance of the year so far,” said Triton coach Ryan Sheehan. “We needed to get back to .500 (3-3) after three straight losses to some tough teams. So this was kind of what the doctor ordered, and it was nice to play this type of game against one of the better teams in the tournament.”
Marengi, who made 67 stops over two games while surrendering just one goal, was named the Tournament MVP.
“We’re pumped to be back to .500 and looking forward to the next game,” said Marengi. “We’ll celebrate it tonight, and then look to move on and get the rest of the season going.”
Bigger picture: Friday’s win could be a positive sign of success to come.
It’s of course not a perfect 1-to-1 correlation between the two events happening, but winning the Lion’s Cup Tournament last year did, in some ways, help Triton eventually make a run to the Division 3 Final Four. That boost of confidence — that jolt right at the start of the winter — would get any team fired up for the rest of the season to come, while also providing postive memories to lean back on when it gets back into a tournament setting.
With 10 key returners back from a season ago, there’s reason to get excited when thinking about where Triton can go.
And look at that, the Vikings just won the Lion’s Cup again.
“All these guys who are playing this year played in the state tournament last year,” said Sheehan. “They all played down the stretch and played in big-time games. So I just think any of that experience helps, and we’re starting to realize that we can be a pretty good team.”
From “goal on out,” it was a dominant showing for Triton Friday night.
Right from the opening puck drop, Colin Fidler, Alex Pasquini, Vinny Magee, Mason Colby, Connor Rumph and the rest of the Viking forwards basically controlled possession for 12 of the 15 first-period minutes. Heading into that first intermission the Vikings had doubled up Chelmsford in shots on goal 11-5, and pretty much did everything but score.
Which finally did change in the second.
Just over five minutes in, sophomore Michael Taylor ripped a shot from the blue line that made its way through traffic, and was deflected into the back of the net by Josh Hersey. The Vikings did get hit with a pair of penalties at the end of the period that dragged into the third, but thanks to Taylor and fellow defensemen Jack Lindholm, Cam Neary and Caleb Palowich — who was celebrating his brithday — they were able to kill both off and keep it a one-goal game.
“We blocked shots great tonight,” said Marengi. “I thought Michael Taylor had a lot of blocked shots along with everyone else in the defense. We got the puck out, we broke the puck out nicely, and I thought we played really well as a team.”
Marengi also bailed Triton out on multiple occasions.
The biggest probably came early in the third period, when a bad turnover in the defensive zone led to a wide-open shot. The Chelmsford forward tried to deke right and come back left to slide the puck under Marengi’s leg, but the junior netminder read it perfectly and made the stop to keep it 1-0. Moments later, a clean offensive-zone faceoff win led to an Aiden Szymanski goal, and the Vikings suddenly had all of the cushion they would need. But just to be safe, Pasquini slid a nice pass out near the front of the net with four minutes left, and Luke Sullivan poked it home to put the game out of reach at 3-0.
Marengi then made a flurry of stops over the final 90 seconds to post his first clean sheet of the year.
“I think this gives us a lot of confidence,” said Marengi. “We’re going in with a little more momentum now to the next couple games, compared to a few games ago when we had lost some. We’re back and we’re excited to be here.”
Triton 3, Chelmsford 0
Chelmsford: 0 0 0 — 0
Triton (3-3-0): 0 1 2 — 3
Lion’s Cup Championship
Goals: Josh Hersey, Aiden Szymanski, Luke Sullivan
Assists: Michael Taylor 2, Colin Fidler, Vinny Magee, Alex Pasquini, Mason Colby
Saves: T — Gavin Marengi 35; C — Mark Bierwirth 33