The Methuen Rangers (14-1-2) have been a burr in the saddle of the Bedford Buccaneers boys’ varsity hockey team (12-3-2) for the past few seasons, perpetuating into this past weekend.
Methuen claimed the MVC/DCL league title in 2022 and 2023 and knocked Bedford out of the 2023 season State Tournament when the Rangers came from behind 2-0 in the third period to beat the Bucs, 3-2.
So, last Saturday night, Methuen was unoriginal to take a come-from-behind victory when down 2-0 in the third period to claim the league title.
Aside from a late start, the game began well for Bedford. Bedford TV had a double-camera crew on scene for the big game. The bleachers and boards filled in with a hometown crowd, Bedford High School staff, and a hearty student section. There was a pregame ceremony honoring Bedford hockey’s four four-year varsity seniors – Bryan Bai, Matt Colasante, Kenny Doucet, and James Naylor – and their families on the ice.
Bedford had the upper hand in the first period, bettering Methuen on time of possession, offensive pressure, scoring opportunity, and shots taken. Bedford’s lines moved well, stayed quick, and found each other on passing. The Bucs were taking shots but didn’t get anything past Methuen goalie Owen O’Brien in the first.
Bedford came out solid in the second period too. The Bucs had to whittle down an elbowing penalty that came with 1.1 seconds left in the first to start the frame. A strongly held forecheck from Alex Frost and maintained by Ryan McGrath, Drew Siwik, and Naylor kept the Methuen power play in the Rangers’ defensive zone for nearly the entirety of the penalty kill.
As the penalty clock wore off, Methuen weakly cleared the puck from their goal line into the neutral zone, Naylor caught up to the puck and passed across the ice to defender Matt Savage. Savage dumped the puck into offensive zone corner boards to allow space for a line change. The puck took the turn of the boards and rolled along behind and to the other side of the net. James Lorusso met up with a chasing Ranger defender who went down on contact.
Lorusso gathered the puck and skated to it to the corner where the Ranger was back on his feet and met back up with Lorusso. Lorusso did a quick 180 and reversed direction back towards the center, leaving the Ranger behind, and passed the puck back along the boards behind the net. Siwik gained possession amongst the Methuen defense and passed the puck out to Charles Demeo at the top of the far side faceoff circle. Demeo one-timed a shot to the nearside net over the shoulder of O’Brien for the first goal of the game.
Two minutes later, Demeo intercepted a Methuen pass intended to go out of the zone, skated around one Ranger, deked another, and took a shot that just missed going in. The puck rang off the post, which appeared to be the wake-up bell at the barn. The Bucs student section started heating up. And so too did Dom Romano, Will MacLaren, Noah Kneeland, and the rest of Methuen’s offense.
While Bedford came out strong and maintained great play through the entire game, Methuen’s offensive momentum steadily grew and started to match the home team. It was a well-played high-effort hardworking game by both teams.
Bedford took a bench penalty for too many men on the ice with nine minutes remaining in the middle period. Frost and Siwik got to work on another round of cat and mouse around the Methuen goal slowing down the Methuen advantage. Bedford tender Max Marchionna also had to get in on the second penalty kill, as Methuen was able to get off a few shots on the advantage, but no goals were scored.
The score stayed 1-0 heading into the third period.
With around 10 minutes left in regulation time, an icing call brought play to a faceoff in the Bucs’ attacking zone. Frost won the faceoff, getting the puck to McGrath on the outside. McGrath took a few strides toward the net before taking a shot. O’Brien saved and covered the puck for a whistle and another face-off.
Frost won the second faceoff and dumped the puck to McGrath on the outside, and McGrath took a few strides toward the goal and again took a shot. With the practice underfoot, McGrath adjusted and the second time around flicked the puck a few inches wider and higher and sent it into the back of the net. The Bucs were up 2-0 in the third.
But we already know how this one ends – so, ripping off the band-aid: with around eight minutes left in the third, a Demeo shot was blocked deflecting the puck out to Romano. Romano accelerated along the boards to mid-ice and connected a backhand pass to MacLaren at center ice. MacLaren pulled the puck around a Bedford defender as he gained control and drove in for a shot that got past Marchionna.
With three minutes to go in regulation, Bedford was called for hooking. Methuen’s Aiden Cashman pushed through the resulting faceoff, leaving the puck for Romano to grab. Romano made a quick pass back to Sokratis Bousios, who passed across to an open Quinn Ronan on the far side. Ronan then skated in and scored the shorthanded goal.
The game went into a five-minute four-on-four sudden death overtime tied at two.
In the end, the difference maker was a big risk for the visitors. With a minute and 18 seconds remaining, Methuen boldly pulled O’Brien and left an empty net. The burr was placed firmly back under the saddle and left the home crowd stunned as Romano shot the game-winner with just twenty seconds left on the clock.
While Bedford was disappointed to end up as runners-up in the 2023-2024 league championship, the season is not over. In a battle at The Edge, Bedford takes on Concord-Carlisle on Wednesday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. The Patriots are also marching strongly through the regular season. C-C is currently 15-3 this season, and second in MIAA Division 2 power rankings.
The Bucs travel to Everett on Saturday; they have one more home game next week before the State tournament.