The Acton-Boxborough Regional High boys’ hockey team exchanged handshakes with host Woburn after pulling off a three-goal comeback in the third period for a 4-3 victory in the Division 1 North quarterfinals Monday night.
The Colonials were jubilant, exchanging hugs and high-fives as they peeled off the line from their foes and found each other. Collectively, they all skated quickly toward the locker room to bask in their accomplishment.
All except for senior defenseman Peter Sikalis, who was more concerned with retrieving the water bottles left behind on the bench.
An assistant coach finally yelled to Sikalis to let the younger players do the cleanup.
And after logging 28 minutes and 20 seconds of ice time during the game, the captain skated toward the gate, the last Colonial off the ice.
“He probably would have had more if we didn’t call a timeout at the end,’’ said coach Bob Lavin. “Our forwards have confidence, they move the puck up, and Peter is the key part of it because he can jump in.’’
Sikalis netted a goal in the win, and after drawing the defense to his side on a two-on-one break, he set up the game-tying goal with a beautiful spin pass to T.J. Barrett.
“I knew one guy was on me,’’ Sikalis said of the Barrett goal. “I don’t even know how I got the puck on his stick. I just kind of looked over and it was going in.’’
“He had a great game,’’ said Lavin. “Eventually we started working the puck down low and it opened up, and Peter started jumping in the play.’’
A starter since he was a freshman, Sikalis has been gobbling up ice time for the Colonials, and it has only served to help him become a dominant player.
He has developed in every aspect of the game, unleashing a powerful shot from the point on power plays, working the penalty kill, and stepping up with the forwards on rushes up ice.
At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Sikalis is an imposing figure for players crossing the blue line with the puck, and after his sophomore season, he began to fill his frame by working out.
“The last year and a half, he started hitting the weights and he filled out,’’ said Lavin. “He’s a strong, big kid. In the past he was big, but didn’t have the strength. It was an entire transformation, and he made the commitment.’’
His commitment has gone a long way in helping out his teammates, especially his goaltenders.
“It helps a ton,’’ sophomore goalie Eric Wurman said of having Sikalis on duty in front of him. “People don’t really play to his side. They always go to the other side. I know they’re not going to pass it back door if he is covering, so it makes it easier for me.’’
Ultimately, Sikalis is a tough player to pigeonhole because he can move the puck better than most defenseman, and he has the speed and skill of a forward to go along with his bruising strength.
Now, after Acton-Boxborough took down Middlesex League powers Reading Memorial and Woburn in the Division 1 North sectional, all eyes will be on Sikalis, and not just because he is on the ice so much.
“I don’t know if they underrated him,’’ said Lavin. “He flew under the radar too long in my opinion. I think he has a ton of potential. His size is a huge thing, but he skates very well for a player his size. He moves the puck and he deserves a little more credit.’’
For now Sikalis just wants to be logging major minutes on the ice, and he hopes to continue do so once his high school career is over.
His ultimate goal is to play college hockey, and he is open to doing anything to improve his game to get there, if the opportunity does not present itself to him right away.
“I’ve had the dream of playing college hockey my whole life,’’ said Sikalis. “I’m looking at prep schools, and that will help me develop. Then maybe play a year in juniors.’’
For now, it seems that he has earned a little bit of rest for his efforts.
“It feels exhausted right now,’’ said Sikalis of his body following the Woburn game Monday.
“I might sleep in tomorrow, I’ll probably recoup on Wednesday.’’
The Colonials (12-8-2) played top-seeded Burlington (15-1-6) in a North semifinal Wednesday night.
Medfield relying on Roddy in goal
Medfield High boys’ hockey coach Toby Carlow said he hopes he never has to witness another shootout again.
Carlow felt helpless from the bench in the Warriors’ first two rounds of the Division 3 South sectional, when his team needed senior goalie Connor Roddy to stop 11 penalty shots in order to advance to the semifinals.
“We knew going into the playoffs that Connor was going to have to be our best player, hands down,’’ Carlow said. “And he is. We owe where we are to him.’’
Roddy is planning on playing lacrosse, though, for Williams College next fall.
“He can play hockey at the next level too,’’ said Carlow. “But hockey is such a different dynamic, the way coaches do things.’’
Natick is keeping Bailey in mind
The Natick High boys have advanced to the Division 1 South semifinals for the first time since 1993, and face Norwood at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Bourne.
But aside from feeling no pressure and getting standout play from goalie Derek Kwok, among others, the Red and Blue started a new pregame ritual that seems to be working.
Over the final three games of the regular season and the two tournament wins over Brockton and Super 8 play-in Needham, the whole team has visited the grave of Justin Bailey, a senior fourth-line grinder who died in January from natural causes.
“We say his name before we go on the ice, say a few words to him in the locker room, bring his jersey on the bench,’’ said coach Karl Infanger. “And at least with the senior class, you can tell they’re playing for something.
I definitely think, especially after the Needham win, they think they can make it a very special year for the town and the Bailey family.’’