SHEFFIELD — With the Wahconah hockey team shuffling its lineup for Tuesday's game, Mount Everett made things interesting all the way until the end before finally succumbing in a 5-3 loss at Berkshire School.
The Warriors (10-3-1) made switches on their offensive and defensive lines and handed Cole Seaman his first start of the year in goal. That meant the score line wasn't as lopsided as the first two times (6-2, 7-2) the teams met this season. For coach Don Disbrow only one thing mattered in the end — his team qualified for postseason play.
"Overall, we came away with the win, that qualifies us for Western Mass.," Disbrow said. "That was the ultimate goal, whether it was 5-3 or 9-3. That's what we were looking to do, and we happened to get some kids some experience, too."
Wahconah fell behind early when Jake Corcoran beat a defenseman one-on-one to rifle the puck past Seaman after five minutes. Two minutes later Nico Moreno set up Nate Lapine for the equalizer, and with 1:45 to go in the period Lapine set up Mike Moreno to make it 2-1 after the first.
The Warriors extended the lead to 4-1 after two through goals from Andrew Beaudoin and Josh Pettit, but just when it looked like the Warriors were in the clear Mount Everett made another push.
Nineteen seconds into the third, Corcoran set up Brendan Dempsey to make it 4-2, and with 11:36 to go Wahconah got called for consecutive penalties to give Mount Everett a 3-on-5 advantage.
Wahconah let up one goal on the penalty kill when Dempsey found the net again on an assist from Corcoran, but with only six seconds left in the advantage, the Warriors kept the tying goal from getting through.
"We did a pretty good job until the very end there," Disbrow said of the penalty kill. "I think it took a weird bounce off somebody. It looked like we were going to clear it and it went off someone's shin."
Mount Everett continued to push for the equalizer, but at the 7:11 mark Disbrow put Nico Romano in goal to finish off the game, and the senior recorded four saves to seal the deal. Wahconah scored a late insurance goal when Mount Everett pulled Jonah Swotes for an extra skater and Mike Moreno was able to capitalize.
"There's definitely some nervous tensions on the bench," Lapine said of the mood after Everett cut it to one. "When it gets down to one goal, no matter what team it is, it gets pretty nerve-wracking, but we had good goaltending and good defense and we managed to work it out."
Mount Everett also got strong goaltending in the game, with Swotes stopping 41 shots to keep the game close.
"He's a captain and a senior for a reason, so we expect that out of him," Mount Everett coach Aidan Gilligan said. "Forty-one saves is very good for Jonah, but we told him going into the season that we had a lot of new faces here and that was going to be expected every single game. He stepped up for much of the season, over the last two games he's been very good, and hopefully he finishes out his senior season strong."
While Wahconah qualified for Western Mass. DIII-A play, the loss officially knocked Mount Everett out of the postseason picture. Gilligan admitted that there was disappointment over not making the cut, but he also pointed to some positives from the season.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Gilligan said. "We definitely have some talent of the team. We had a lot of turnover with 12 seniors graduating last year, but I don't like to make excuses and no one on the team will make an excuse. I thought we had the talent to get there this year, but we've done a lot of growing throughout the season and I'm happy to see us playing better hockey as the season finishes up."
Seaman finished with nine saves for Wahconah.
ME — Jake Corcoran (unassisted), 9:59. W — Nate Lapine (Nico Moreno), 8:20. W — Mike Moreno (Lapine), 1:45.
W — Andrew Beaudoin (Logan Rumbolt), 13:50. W — Josh Pettit (Aubrey Rumbolt), 6:05.
ME — Brendan Dempsey (Corcoran, Grayson Duval), 14:41. ME — Dempsey (Corcoran), 10:12. W — Mike Moreno (Pettit), :05.
Saves — ME: Jonah Swotes (41). W: Cole Seaman (9), Nico Romano (4).