PORTSMOUTH — With about a minute left to go in overtime, Portsmouth head coach Michael Monahan decided to pull junior goalie Ben Hood from the net, giving the Patriots the extra attacker. But it wasn’t because of a power-play or a delayed penalty against their opponent.
The game was tied 2-2 against the East Greenwich Avengers Monday at the Portsmouth Abbey Ice Rink, and all the Patriots needed was a goal to get into the playoffs and continue their season.
But everyone, on the ice and in the stands, knew that it was a long shot. And as the seconds ticked away on Portsmouth’s season this deepening feeling, for all the players but especially the Patriot seniors who were honored before their final home game, began to sink in.
For the first time since the 2004-2005 season, the Portsmouth Patriots boys ice hockey team will not be going to the postseason.
“I’ve never been this sad about a tie,” Monahan said. “The kids were high, and we put ourselves in a position where we had to win. The chances along the way could have made it a little easier. But we didn’t.”
Senior captains Matt Harrigan and Dallas Wynegar scored for the Patriots, with sophomore defenseman Myles Arkins and senior captain Cam Hebert providing the assists. Sophomore forward Michael Ranalli scored twice in the tie for the East Greenwich Avengers.
“It’s tough that it’s all done, but it was really a great experience,” Harrigan said after the game. “It’s great to see how the team came together at the end. It’s kind of bittersweet that it’s all over.”
The Patriots have had a tough end to their season, as they were victorious in only two of their last six games and were shut out in three of those games to Lincoln High School and Middletown High School twice.
But a victory this past weekend over North Kingstown boosted the team’s confidence, and going into Monday’s game Monahan felt confident that his team would pull through.
“The last couple of weeks, in particular the last couple of days, we pulled it together so well,” Monahan said. “We felt ready for this, and I felt like we had the upper hand.”
“We had some great chances, we probably had more chances than they did.” he said. “But we couldn’t put them away, some really close ones.”
For coach Monahan, this game was particularly meaningful, as this year’s graduating seniors are the last remnants of the team he inherited when he took the job as head coach in the 2009-2010 season. The Patriots, under Monahan’s leadership, went on to win the championship that year, and this year’s graduating class of seniors is the last of that championship team.
“We told them we were proud of them (after the game),” he said. “A week and a half ago we wouldn’t have dreamt that we had a chance to have this in our own hands.”
But Monahan sees potential in some of the younger, up-and-coming players that he has in the system, particularly his talent in goal as he noted next year’s seniors Ben Hood and Conor Struckman as the keys to the Patriots future success.
And Matt Harrigan is also ready to pass the torch onto the younger players, who are eager to fill the void that the graduating seniors will leave behind next year.
“There are a lot of underclassmen and a solid group of freshman this year,” Harrigan said. “So hopefully they work on their game this summer and really improve.”