HAVERHILL — In December, a full-strength Rockport hockey team dropped a one-goal game to Pentucket.
In that game, the Sachems’ top line of Tom Pingree, John Orlando and Ian Mitchell piled up all five of Pentucket’s goals to pace the win.
When the two teams met again Saturday at Haverhill’s Veterans Memorial Rink, that Pentucket top line was still intact.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they were less than whole. Rockport lost captain Conor Douglass and third-liner Tucker Reedy for at least the rest of the regular season due to injuries suffered in a loss to Gloucester last week, and with defenseman Marc Castonguay out with the flu, an already thin Rockport roster had been further depleted.
But while Pentucket ultimately took home a decisive 5-2 victory after holding off a third-period push from the Vikings, Rockport coach Derek Papalegis was happy with what he saw.
For a team that had struggled with intensity and mental strength throughout the season, the Vikings battled for all three periods despite rolling just two lines and four defensemen. A loss is always a loss, but this may have been the kind of loss a team can build from.
”Any time you lose a senior, a captain, a top goal scorer and then a third-line physical grinder, it’s tough,” Papalegis said. “The score was what we liked, but I thought it was definitely a step in the right direction. Guys were positive on the bench and I thought we actually outplayed them, just spotted them some ‘gimme’ goals. Other than that, I thought we dictated play at times.”
It didn’t take long for those “gimme” goals to set the Vikings back, when Pingree picked a corner on a 2-on-1 to put the Sachems up by one just 35 seconds into the game.