By Greg Phipps
Having completed the first third of the 2018-19 season, the Saugus High School hockey team had accumulated a triple dose of twos. The Sachems earned their second win on Monday by blanking the Haverhill Hillies, 1-0, at Kasabuski Arena.
Sitting at 2-2-2 as of early this week, Saugus was scheduled for an away contest at Peabody on Wednesday and at host Medford this Saturday. After opening the campaign with ties against Gloucester (4-4) and Beverly (0-0), losses to Watertown and Melrose sandwiched around a 4-0 victory over North Reading left head coach Jeff Natalucci and company determined to prevail on Monday against Haverhill.
Ronnie Paolo’s shorthanded goal on a breakaway in the second period proved to be the only score the Sachems would need against the Hillies. Saugus killed off a key 5-on-3 shorthanded situation early in the second frame, and sophomore goalie Colin Ronan was perfect in net, earning his first-ever varsity shutout.
Saugus needed 14 points (the equivalent of seven more wins) to capture a postseason berth after Monday’s triumph.
In the team’s other victory over North Reading back on Dec. 26, Jack Devereaux collected the shutout in goal. At the same time, the defense fought off five penalties and came through big on the power play in the second period. Jason Caron scored the first Saugus goal midway through the second period off an assist from Nick Aiken. C.J. Graffeo added the other power play tally later in the stanza when he whipped a wrist shot home. Joe Cross and Adam Rodrigues assisted on the play.
The Sachems would make it a 3-0 advantage before the period concluded when Dante McGrane deflected a Nick Alba pass into the net. The final tally came on an empty net goal by Lorenzo Keegan late in the third period.
Natalucci told the press after the North Reading win that his team was focusing on keeping playing a less complicated style of hockey. “We’ve been trying to get the guys to just simplify things and we did that [against North Reading],” he said. “We built momentum off of those power play goals, and it was all about simplifying things on the forecheck.”