Masco rallies to tie Newburyport in Lafata Memorial Game
By Phil Stacey
Executive Sports Editor
HAVERHILL — It was a fitting ending to an emotional evening. Junior captain Andrew Gotts’ second goal of the game, coming with 3:57 to play, enabled host Masconomet to tie Cape Ann League rival Newburyport, 4-4, before a packed house at the Valley Forum.
It was billed as the inaugural Brandon Lafata Memorial Game, played in honor of the 2017 Masconomet graduate and hockey standout who died two weeks ago due to complications from juvenile diabetes. The contest also served as a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.
“There were some tears; I’m not going to lie,” said Gotts. “It was really emotional, but it also got us fired up to play.”
“A lot of our guys knew Brandon and played against him, and from everything I’ve heard he was a great kid,” added Newburyport (12-2-6) coach Paul Yameen. It was a very emotional night.”
Before the game began, both teams lined up at their respective blue lines as Masconomet Head coach Andrew Jackson took the microphone. His brief but eloquent speech about Lafata as a player, teammate and person praised him as exemplary in all three.
Jackson then presented Lafata’s parents, Mick and Susan, and his siblings Savannah and Colton, Brandon’s Masco home white, road red and alternative pink (from its Coaches vs. Cancer game) jerseys and a bouquet of flowers. There were some misty eyes in the crowd, who gave a standing ovation as Jackson and the Lafata family hugged.
Mick Lafata then dropped the ceremonial first puck before the contest got underway.
Gotts’ 21st goal of the season helped Masconomet (10-5-4) erase a two-goal third period deficit. It was the second time the teams had tied this season, having battled to a 3-3 stalemate last month in Newburyport.
“(Defenseman) Austin Veno made a nice dump-in into their zone and Dylan Campbell forechecked like crazy to get it,” said the 17-year-old Gotts. “He threw it out front to me and I just had to tap it in.”
Masconomet got on the scoreboard first when Gotts collected a rebound off a Zach Smith blast from the left point and flung in past Clipper goalkeeper Ken Hodge (21 saves) for a power play goal at 11:09 of the first period.
The two teams then traded goals within 15 seconds of each other to make it 2-1 Chieftains after 15 minutes. Matt Major tipped home Veno’s shot from the right point, andNewburyport answered directly off the faceoff as Pat Leary buried one from the slot.
The Clippers controlled the second period, outshooting the Chieftains 15-7 and scoreling twice to take a 3-2 advantage.
Newburyport put six shots on Masco netminder Tucker Hanson (24 saves) early in the period, but were turned away each time. They cashed in in their second man advantage, however, with Cole Spence converting a Leary feed to knit things up at 2-2.
Then, with just 13.8 seconds left in the second, Ethan Coir took a pass from Spence and put it into the Masconomet cage, giving the Clippers their first lead.
On their first shot of the third period, the Clippers took a two-goal lead as Tom Greene’s shot from the left point found its way through traffic and into the twine. Coir and Spence picked up assists.
“We just kept preaching to our guys on the bench, ‘Throw the puck on goal and see what happens’,” said Jackson. “Fortunately it worked out for us.”
The Chieftains made it a one-goal with under six minutes to go when Garrett Young’s shot went off a shin pad out front and in. Less than two minutes later, Gotts ties the game for good.
“Some bad bounces,” said Yameen, whose team wraps up the regular season Friday against Andover. “If you Look at our park possession and zone time, we did pretty well. If you look at our shots, we did pretty well there, too. We just had some bad bounces go against us.”