ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Heading into Wednesday night’s meeting at the New England Sports Village, Attleboro and Oliver Ames had combined to play just five games in the opening four weeks of the season. Even this game was a last-minute addition when OA’s game with Canton had to be postponed because of a rink closure.
It is certainly not the ideal circumstance to be taking over a program, but first-year Attleboro coach Greg Chamberlain had reason to smile after the Bombardiers held off a comeback by the visiting Tigers and picked up a 5-3 victory. It was Chamberlain’s first win as head coach.
“It’s been quite the interesting ride thus far,” Chamberlain said with a laugh. “We’re just happy to get a game in and my first win, it’s nice. With no state tournament, now is the time to teach. You have to have these guys playing and learning from their mistakes.”
After slow starts in both of the first two games, including a three-goal, first period deficit against North Attleboro on Friday, Attleboro made a point of getting off to a good start against OA. The Bombardiers would take control of the game early, scoring three times on their first four shots.
Four minutes into the game, Aidan Diggin got free in the offensive zone and beat OA freshman goalie Nolan Gemmiti to open the scoring. It took another eight minutes for the hosts to double their lead, but then just 12 seconds to tack on a third.
Nate Parker created the second goal with a long rush down the right wing and then a perfect feed across the crease to Diggin camped out at the back post for an easy tap in. Almost right from the face-off, Attleboro had another rush and a shot by Colin Flynn that found the back of the net.
“The first two games we had bad starts and then marched back, so that was the key to the game today to get off to a quick start,” Chamberlain explained. “Knowing their coaches and hearing they’ve been going through the same thing (with Covid-related cancelations), it was like okay boys let’s jump on it, we’ve been practicing all week.”
Despite trailing 3-0 after the first period, OA had created its fair share of chances. Matt Lawson forced a pad save from Attleboro goalie Nick Piazza with a shot from the point, Sean McCarthy raced down the wing and drew a shoulder stop, and Jack Perron teed up Lawson for a shot in the slot only for Piazza to again make the save.
“We’ve had two Covid issues and been shut down, we’ve played three games, we’ve probably had seven practices so far, so we haven’t really had a chance to work on anything,” admitted OA coach Mike Zucarelli. “They played with passion and heart today and that’s all I ask them to do. Just play for each other and play it’s like your last game.”
Attleboro pushed the lead to four less than two minutes into the second period. On the power play, Parker controlled the puck behind the OA goal, faked like he was heading out one side and then ducked back around to stuff it over the line at the near post.
It looked like the game might get out of hand, but then OA answered back.
Freshman Andrew Livingstone capped a good spell of pressure in front of Piazza by forcing a save with a snap shot from the high slot. After being forced to the bench and being treated for a cut on his chin during the first period, Livingstone returned to the ice and buried a rebound from Kevin Tremblay’s shot from the point. It was his first varsity goal.
The Bombardiers were spurred into action after the goal. Diggin fired a pass to Parker right in front only for Gemmiti to stand tall and make the save. With 7:28 left in the period, Attleboro’s pressure paid off with a fifth goal. The puck was sitting on the goal line and Jake Ward was able to knock it across for a 5-1 lead.
After a tough start to the night, Gemmiti settled down and made six saves in the second period. He stopped an Aidan Dryjowicz chance from the right wing right before OA got its second, as McCarthy finished from a tight angle.
“He put the pads on this year so we could have a JV program,” Zucarelli said of Gemmiti. “He got thrown in our second game against KP and earned his stripes that night. I couldn’t be prouder of that young man right now. He played outstanding today. For someone who’s never played net before this year, he played awesome.”
Down three goals heading to the third period, OA came back out on the ice with a purpose. Livingstone had an early chance smack off the crossbar. Gemmiti came up with another big stop on Parker before the Tigers struck for a third. Ross Carroll cut inside from the right wing boards and went top shelf with a wrister that gave Piazza no chance.
The Tigers kept pressing. OA would outshoot the Bombardiers 9-2 in the third (and 26-14 for the game), but couldn’t find a way past the Attleboro netminder. Landon Grothe (one of the eight freshmen on the OA roster) forced the best save with a shot from the point through traffic that Piazza managed to get a toe on.
“He’s the best goalie in the league,” Chamberlain said. “To have what we have with him is an absolute luxury. It’s a new system too that I’m teaching all of them, so it’s good to have a kid with a ton of poise back there because I want to have the ‘D’ be more aggressive.”