MARLBOROUGH – If you came for defense, you were in luck!
The Saturday night matchup between the Grafton Gators and Marlborough Panthers began with an early Grafton goal, but for the remaining 40-plus minutes of action, both defenses ruled the ice, leading to a low-scoring, tension-filled battle. As the buzzer sounded, the Gators emerged victorious, leaving Navin Arena with the 2-0 win.
“A well-earned win. A great team win. Everybody stepped up – there wasn’t one guy that stood out, it was a whole-team effort, and we certainly earned it. Coming into Marlborough on a Saturday night against a historically good program, these are special ones to win,” Grafton Head Coach Mike Binkoski told the Community Advocate.
The Gators’ early goal – scored less than three minutes into the game – came off the stick of junior Juan Scott, who shot the puck into traffic to put his team ahead.
“It helped us settle into the game. It was a great face-off win. He shot it through a screen, the goalie didn’t see it. It was everything we preach: winning face-offs, gaining possession, defensemen getting their shots through. Scoring early helps us play with some confidence,” Binkoski said after the game.
After the early game offense, both defenses settled in. Although each team had chances – especially Marlborough, which desperately fought to knot the game – both goaltenders would make clutch saves to keep the game at 1-0. The Gators’ defensive toughness ensured the Panthers never found the back of the net.
“For us, obviously losing isn’t the goal. But looking at how we played in the second and third period, I thought we played really well. Just one of those nights where we couldn’t get the puck in the net,” said Marlborough Head Coach Mike O’Brien. “Going into the game, we knew it would be very close – they’re a very good team. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of it.”
The Gators’ goaltender – senior Mason DeCaire – was largely responsible for holding Marlborough scoreless, saving 36 total shots.
“Mason is awesome. He’s the stonewall for our team… He’s one of the best goalies to ever come through the program, and it’s really special having him,” said Binkoski.
“I knew they were going to be a tough team – it would be a battle for the whole game to beat them. I expected nothing less… I’m always trying to get to that zero-goal mark. Sometimes it doesn’t bounce your way, but today I had a few bounces that I wanted,” said DeCaire.
The Gators’ second goal was scored on an empty net with 30 seconds remaining.
And after a tough, gritty win, the Gators are feeling good about their future.
“We could make it all the way. We just need to play every night the way we did tonight and just battle,” said DeCaire.