Velasco Game-Winner Secures Battle of the Berkshires for Taconic

By Stephen Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The Taconic hockey team lost a two-goal lead in the third period and was frustrated on a power-play chance to regain the advantage.
But with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left in Saturday’s home opener. Dom Velasco found a way to finish the deal.
The Monument Mountain junior stole the puck in the neutral zone and broke in unmarked, scoring his second goal of the game and giving the Thunder a 4-3 win over McCann Tech.
“I saw the defense, and they made a pass,” Velasco said. “It was a little bit off, and I just saw an opportunity. I took it on a breakaway, and I scored.”
Cam Laferriere made 20 saves to earn Taconic’s first win of the season between the pipes.
Taconic also got a win in the only game currently scheduled between the county’s remaining two high school hockey programs.
Velasco played his high school hockey last winter in the Mount Everett co-op squad, which was folded into the Taconic co-op this season.
“It’s been nice,” said Taconic captain Roshan Warriar, a Pittsfield High senior. “I think we all really bonded well, very quickly. We’re all a pretty big family now.
“We got together really quick, and we’ll be rolling soon.”
Warrior got things rolling on Saturday night when he blocked a shot on the penalty kill and took the puck the other way for a breakaway goal and a 1-0 lead with 5:16 left in the first period.
It turned out to be the only special teams goal on a night when McCann Tech earned nine power play chances while allowing just two.
“I thought we did a really good job staying out of the box,” McCann Tech coach Matt Parise said. “I was very proud of our kids to keep their composure, stay out of the box – all things we talked about the two weeks leading up to this game.
“A lot of positives, a lot of things to build on in this game. I thought we played a pretty all-around solid game. There are things we can improve on, and we will.”
Taconic opened a 2-0 lead when Rylan Padelford (Wahconah) scored unassisted two minutes after Warriar’s goal.
But less than a minute later, McCann Tech’s Austin Buda lit the lamp with an assist from Dallas Ritcher.
It stayed 2-1 until midway through the second period, when Velasco scored his first goal on a tough angle shot from low on the right wing.
The Hornets had three tries on the power play after that goal to close out the period, and a fourth straight man-up opportunity to start the third when Taconic took another penalty 1:27 into the period.
But Laferriere and the Thunder defense held up until the fourth minute of the period.
That is when Everett Bayliss (Mount Greylock) punched in the rebound of a shot from Brayden Canales (Drury) to make it 3-2.
Four minutes later, Ritcher got his third point of the game and McCann Tech’s third even-strength goal to tie the game, 3-3, off assists from Bayliss and Canales.
Just 22 seconds left, Taconic got its second power play chance of the game.
But Hornets keeper Abby Fuls (Mount Greylock) made three of her 19 saves in the span of 1:15 to keep the score level.
A little more than a minute after that man-up opportunity expired, Velasco scored the game-winner.
For Taconic, the four-goal performance was a good sign after a 1-1 tie at Ludlow in Thursday’s season opener.
“It’s a work in progress,” Taconic coach Matt Risley said. “They’re starting to click together, talk together, communicate and make plays. That’s a positive. Step in the right direction.”
The Thunder (1-0-1) now has a week off to get ready for next Saturday’s game at Agawam. The Hornets (0-1) play their home opener on Wednesday against Belchertown.
Both Berkshire squads have a hole on their schedule that they would like to be able to fill with a rematch. Parise said Saturday that the programs are working to line up their schedule for a second Berkshire battle later this season.
“There was a little more urgency tonight,” Parise said. “You could see it. It’s a rivalry game.”
“It was definitely nice to get bragging rights,” Taconic’s Warriar said. “There’s a lot of off-the-ice, a little bit of on-the-ice talk back and forth all the time. So it’s nice to pull that victory off and have the advantage there.”
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