Winning 50 games in your high school career is an incredible accomplishment. Getting #50 against arguably your biggest rival with first place in the league on the line?
Now that’s special.
Winthrop senior goalie Summer Tallent posted 26 saves, helped her team kill eight power plays and Talia Martucci had the game’s lone goal in the first period, giving the D1 No. 2 Vikings a 1-0 win over fifth-ranked Peabody/Lynnfield/North Reading at the Larsen Rink on Wednesday night in a battle of Northeastern Hockey League heavies.
Winthrop (8-0-1, 9-0-1) now grabs the upper hand in the NHL race, looking to unseat the three-time defending champs. PLNR (9-1-1, 9-3-1) and Newbryport remain just behind.
“To me, this (win) is everything,” said Tallent. “They’ve won three or four consecutive Northeastern League titles. This is a big win because I’ve never even had a chance to be in the running for an NHL title, so to me it’s amazing. They’ve won the title three years in a row at least, so us having the chance to be above them is amazing to us.”
As for the 50th career win between the pipes, did Tallent ever dream of anything like it?
“It means almost everything,” she said. “I’ve been playing hockey for 10-plus years, I’ve been playing for (head coach Butch Martucci) since eighth grade, so I’m surprised I was even able to do that because there’s been so many great goalies ahead of me. I’m just so glad I got the opportunity to do it.”
“All week, she wanted this one bad,” Martucci said. “These guys have had our number the last few years, so we were up for this one.”
Tallent wasn’t very busy in the first period, only facing four shots, but there was still plenty of action with eight penalties called between both squads. Winthrop had to kill off four of them and did a good job limiting PLNR’s zone time.
The only goal of the game came just 1:17 into the first period. First, Emma Holmes forced a turnover as PLNR tried to clear the puck, with the assistance of Julia Holmes. Julia then chipped the puck towards the slot where Martucci was waiting and she quickly backhanded it upstairs past PLNR Audrey Buckley (20 saves) for the early lead.
The Tanners’ best chance of the game came early in the third with a 2-on-0 break, but Tallent was able to slide over just in time to make a left-pad save. PLNR continued to keep its foot on the gas, creating several frantic moments in front of the Winthrop net at times, but Tallent stood tall and carried the 1-0 lead to the third.
Peabody/Lynnfield/North Reading started the last frame with 1:23 of power play time but couldn’t muster any opportunities. The Vikings were called for three more penalties in the third and killed all of them. In total, 12 penalties were called for the game.
Winthrop finished the game on a power play, but with Buckley pulled in the final moments, Tallent had to survive one last flurry before being mobbed by her teammates after the final horn sounded.
There’s still a few weeks until teams can really start focusing on state tournament prep, but Wednesday night’s knock-down, drag-out affair was about as good a tuneup as you can get for February hockey.
“When you’ve got teams out there like Austin Prep, Notre Dame and those guys – and we’re not going to see them – this is good for both of us because it gives us a gauge and seeing a different level of competition,” coach Martucci added.
“We said it before the game, there’s never really a winner here. We beat the bag out of each other and now we’ve got to go play somebody else, but we definitely love to get a game like this under our belt. It gives us our ninth win which obviously puts us in the tournament, but for power rankings this is obviously good. A win against them is big.”