FITCHBURG – A pair of defensive breakdowns late in the second period doomed the Lunenburg/Ayer-Shirley Regional hockey team on Monday night.
With the game tied in the closing minutes of the middle stanza, Oakmont Regional struck for a pair of goals to grab a two-goal lead heading into the intermission. The Blue Knights never recovered as Oakmont skated away with a 5-2 victory at the Wallace Civic Center on the campus of Fitchburg State University.
Lunenburg/Ayer-Shirley, who opened the season with a loss against Littleton on Saturday, falls to 0-2 on the infant season while Oakmont, who lost to Gardner in its first game on Saturday, improves to 1-1.
Blue Knights head coach Eric Short spoke following Monday’s tough loss.
“With a young team we have our challenges scoring so spotting Oakmont two goals there at the end of the period was tough,” said Short from outside his team’s locker room. “That was a heartbreaker but we have to just keep working to get better. We need to make better passes, we had way too many turnovers tonight.”
The Blue Knights certainly are loaded with youth. Short’s varsity roster features15 underclassmen, including five eighth-graders. The team is led by a trio of captains in seniors Brady Madigan and Ryan Strout along with junior Nick Fortier.
On Saturday, L-A-S built a two-goal lead early in the second period only to watch Littleton rally on its way to a 5-3. On Monday, the Blue Knights struck first only to watch Oakmont answer right back.
“Littleton scored an empty-net goal against us late in the third period in the first game,” said Short. “It’s expected with a younger team. We have to learn how to play with the lead and learn how to win. The young guys will learn and will continue to improve as the season goes.”
The Blue Knights drew first blood with a goal from eighth-grader Ben Short just 5:45 into the frame. Ben Short’s unassisted goal gave the hosts a quick 1-0 lead.
The tourists from South Ashburnham answered 4:01 later with a goal from Kyle Vogel, assisted by Zach Sarasin, to knot things at 1-1.
Still tied at one heading to the second period Oakmont wasted little time taking its first lead of the night when Vogel potted his second tally of the game when he beat Lunenburg goalie Garrett Hakey (19 total saves) just 2:36 in to make it a 2-1 score.
The Blue Knights answered a few minutes later with a goal by Madigan. The L-A-S forward tickled the twine with a shot, besting Oakmont goalie Chase Alexis (16 total saves) to tie the game 2-2 at the 7:53 mark. Freshman forward Logan Martin and junior defenseman and captain Nick Fortier assisted Madigan’s goal.
The Spartans once again solved the Blue Knights defense when Evan Thibault gave the guests a 3-2 lead 12:29 in before Blake Riggins doubled the Oakmont advantage with a goal 1:16 later to make it 4-2.
In the final period, the Blue Knights were hoping for a spark that would help get them back in the game.
An Oakmont hooking penalty at the 5:36 mark of the stanza gave the hosts a power-play opportunity however the Blue Knights failed to cash in, managing just two shots on the man advantage.
‘It was the same deal during the power play,” said Short. “We were trying to make 80 foot passes instead of eight-foot passes. Also, I lost count of the number of times we missed the net so that’s going to be another area we need to focus on.”
The Spartans added a late third-period goal courtesy of Hunter Couture with 1:13 left to conclude the scoring.
Oakmont finished the contest with 24-18 shots on goal advantage.
The Blue Knights are off until Saturday afternoon when they return to the Wallace Civic Center ice for a contest with the Bernardians of St. Bernard’s.