The Medford Mustangs got two goals from senior forward Jon Nazzaro, powering them to a 5-1 victory over the Somerville Highlanders Wednesday night at Somerville’s Veterans Memorial Rink. The Mustangs remain undefeated in the Greater Boston League, having scored 33 goals in five GBL games.
The Mustangs exploded off the opening drop Wednesday night, combining their speed with the fresh ice to fly through the neutral zone before Highlander defenders could react. The move paid off just 1:02 into the first, when Mustang sophomore Paul Zizzo fed the puck up to freshman Derek Mecrones in the neutral zone.
Mecrones sprinted through the Highlanders’ zone on the breakaway, then beat Highlander goalie Taylor Sutherland-West for the 1-0 lead.
“Our advantage against them is speed, so the fresher the ice, the smoother the surface, the more chances we’re going to create using our feet,” Medford coach Steve DeBenedictis said.
The Mustangs scored in similar fashion in the final two minutes of the first, when senior captain Tyler Zizzo grabbed a rebound off a Highlander shot, then found Nazzaro waiting behind the blue line. Nazzaro broke for the goal unimpeded, beating Sutherland-West for a 2-0 lead.
“When we clear our zone with good passes, when we’re going tape-to-tape clearing our zone, we’re able to hit the off-side guys that are breaking,” DeBenedictis said. “I think we ended up getting probably three goals off plays like that.”
The Highlanders didn’t quit, however, scoring with just 0.4 seconds left in the first period, when senior Joshua Weiand sent a puck behind the goal and along the boards to an awaiting Ryan Conte. Conte fired a slapshot past goalie Jimmy Cecchini to cut the lead to 2-1.
“If [the Highlanders] play like that, more often than not, they’re going to get bounces,” Somerville coach Chuck Allen said. “It’s called ‘puck luck.’ If they work hard … and if they carry that attitude through practice tomorrow and practice Friday, they will put the puck in the net.”
But given the fresh ice of the second period, the Mustangs went back on the attack, ripping shot after shot at Sutherland-West. Even when they couldn’t score, the Mustangs’ solid fore-checking kept the puck perpetually near the Highlander goal.
“Tonight the game plan was to fore-check aggressively and try and get turnovers,” DeBenedictis said. “We get the puck back down deep, and then cycle and try to get the puck to the front of the net. It worked pretty well for us for the most part.”
With the Highlanders unable to clear the puck consistently or mount counter-attacks, their defense eventually tired. That led to the Mustangs’ third goal just over four minutes into the second, when center Brian Enos dished it to Tyler Zizzo, who rocketed one past Sutherland-West for a 3-1 lead.
Poor puck control hurt the Highlanders again less than two minutes later, when sophomore D.J. Galvin picked off a pass in the Highlanders’ zone, made a few quick moves and scored unassisted for a 4-1 lead.
“They capitalized,” Allen said. “We couldn’t put the pucks in. We hit a couple of posts, and things happen.”
Defensively, the Mustangs refused to let the Highlanders mount a consistent offense, always swarming loose pucks, contesting shots and scooping rebounds past the blue line to force the Highlanders to retreat. Mustang defenders also showed no fear of sacrificing their bodies, throwing their bodies to block or deflect pucks long before they reached Cecchini.
“The second and third period, you probably saw a little bit more bodies blocking shots,” DeBenedictis said. “It should have happened in the first period.”
Mustang dives helped keep the Highlanders from scoring on a minute-long 5-on-3 late in the second period. The missed opportunity seemed to deflate the Highlanders’ attack in the third.
While the Highlanders went on more power plays than the Mustangs, the scored the only power play goal. Nazarro tipped in a shot from junior Jake Porrazzo with under two minutes left in the game, capping off the Mustangs’ seventh game with four or more goals this season.
With the win, Medford improved to 7-7 overall and 5-0 in the GBL. Somerville fell to 8-5-1 overall and 2-3 in the GBL.