FITCHBURG — The Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley boys’ hockey team got a second-period hat trick from Jacob Mauro and rolled to a 6-1 win over Northbridge at the Wallace Civic Center.
Freshman Aaron O’Connor added a pair of goals for the Blue Knights, who improved to 6-2-0 on the season. Ayer Shirley is a co-op program with Lunenburg.
On a frosty night, when fans were coming into an ice arena in search of warmth, it took Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley a while to heat up. But after a sluggish, and scoreless, first period, the Knights caught fire and erupted for four goals in the second period to blow the game open.
“The kids came out a little flat in the first period,” said Lunenburg coach Eric Short. “Luckily, (goaltender Anthony Firmani) played well and (the Rams) didn’t capitalize. And then I thought we played real well the second and third periods.”
Mauro and Sean Simpson set the tone less than 30 seconds into the second period, racing out of their own end on a 2-on-none rush. The pair played give-and-go before Mauro beat Rams goalie Chris Wells to his glove side for a 1-0 lead.
Midway through the period, O’Connor doubled the lead with his third goal of the year and first since the season-opener against Gardner.
As the period wore on, Lunenburg began to dominate play and kept the Rams pinned in their own end. The Blue Knights held a 16-5 edge in shots on goal for the period and a 38-13 advantage for the game.
Mauro notched his second goal of the game on a nifty backhand, set up by a beautiful feed from Connor Viviano from behind the net. Later, with the Blue Knights on the power play, Mauro finished off his second hat trick of the season, redirecting a slapshot by Viviano from the blue line.
“Traffic in front of the net, that’s something we’ve been working on. Working hard in front of the net and being active,” said Short.
Mauro, a junior, has scored in all eight games this season and leads Lunenburg /AS with 20 points (14 goals, 6 assists).
The victory was a bounce-back win for the Blue Knights, who were coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss to Grafton Valley Tech earlier in the week. Lunenburg held a 2-0 lead over the defending Division 3A state champs on a pair of Mauro goals, before Grafton Valley rallied back and won the game on a power-play goal in the third period.
“I guess you could call it a bounce-back win,” said Short. “We had played well against Grafton and then we made a mistake in the third period and lost it on a power-play goal. So it was good to come back and get the win tonight.”