NORTH ADAMS — The Drury Blue Devils hockey team lost 2-1 to South Hadley Saturday in their last home-ice contest of the season slipping to 4-9 with one game left in the regular season.
The visiting Tigers improved to 8-6-2 while scoring twice in the first period and holding on for the final 33 minutes against scrappy, short-handed Drury. The Devils were without standout junior forward David Delisle, who was out for the game with an injury.
Still, the Devils had chances to even, or win, the game, specifically a late 5-on-3 power play as regulation time expired at the Peter Foote Ice Skating Rink.
This was after the hometown Devils, in the midst of a three-game losing streak, were snake-bitten by penalties of their own and victimized by some lack of puck-luck and seemed to be caught with every lapse of composure, especially in the third period. This meant over three quarters of the third period was played on special teams, most of which was on the penalty kill.
“Well we gave up the two goals early on and they were well earned on their end,” Devils coach Derek Durocher said after the final whistle shut down a furious Drury rally.
“One goal (by South Hadley Captain Kadyn Laramee) was a great goal-scorer's goal and they earned both goals for sure. But we put up a tremendous effort and worked (hard). I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys and their effort tonight after getting down and playing the way they played. Nothing to hang your head about.”
Zach Lillie lit the lamp for Drury’s lone goal, at 13:31 of the second, while also displaying his hard-hitting style on defense throughout the game. Lillie was not alone shining in his own end as the Devils penalty kill was locked in. It nearly struck twice on short-handed scoring bids down 5-on-3 in the third but came up empty.
On the penalty kill, eighth-grader Brayden Canales chipped in with freshman Owen Taylor along with Austin Buda and Wesley Emerson, both sophomores and junior Nick Abusi as the Devils showed their depth.
“We were down late, but it was the early goals early on, even while we played pretty well,” Durocher said. “The special teams hung in there.”
Indeed Drury outshot the Tigers 9-7 in the first period with quality scoring chances by junior forward Collin Booth on a breakaway, a pair of darts by Lincoln on an early power play, and a pressure put on by freshman Owen Taylor on a pair of occasions.
Drury also controlled the faceoff dot with a 10-4 advantage early on. Senior goalie Chase Vanderwoude stepped up his game late in the period with an outstanding stop with 2:37 to go in the first, an effort he sustained for over the final two periods (two more excellent saves at 3:21 of the second period kept the Devils within one).
The second period opened with a scoring chance on Cameron Taylor’s wicked slap shot and a South Hadley save. Just minutes after Lillie’s pretty goal, penalties started piling up and the game’s physicality skyrocketed.
Senior Petit was called for a trip putting Drury on the kill followed by a roughing call on Branden Lincoln in retaliation for a South Hadley penalty. The penalty minutes continued to mount for Drury as they wound up on the penalty kill for nine minutes of the third period until a pair of late ill-advised gaffs by South Hadley put Drury on the doorstep.
Vanderwoude had nine third-period stops including three great stops on the light end of a 5-on-3.
Durocher has seen his team grow through good and bad.
“You know you get the good, bad and the ugly with youth, a little bit of growing pains. They’re getting it, they're acclimating to the size, the speed of the game. So the future…actually is very bright for this group even though the season went flat a few weeks ago.
“It’s kind of a funny thing in our last five games we have one period where we give up three to five goals. So mitigating damage has been something that’s led to where we are right now.
“From a leadership perspective Guys like Lincoln, Delisle, Chase Vanderwoude in goal, guys like Tyler Petit and Cam Taylor, they've played high-level hockey and have kind of been paving the way for some of these other younger guys. To come up and contribute. Owen Taylor has stepped up and played even on special teams. (Wesley) Emerson, Canales, (Ethan) Wilson, (Liam) Noyes, (Jameson) Bayless. They’re going to have fantastic careers and they’re going to have some fun.”
Drury will have an additional postseason game after Ludlow at a neutral site but will not advance beyond this bonus contest.