There have been many high school, collegiate and professional athletes over the years who have turned to their teammates and said "Hop on my back, I'll carry you."
But you'd have to search far and wide to find a high school hockey player who has done more for his team than what Derek Petti did for the over the past week.
"Petti Magic" struck again Saturday afternoon in Methuen, as the junior center iceman and team's leading scorer produced another spectacular goal in the final minute of the game to salvage a 1-1 tie for Tewksbury. For the second time in seven days.
All Mark and Donna Petti's second son has done over the past week of TMHS hockey is to pull out a 1-1 tie with Lincoln-Sudbury by scoring his team's only goal with 40 seconds to play last weekend; ; then score yet another last-minute goal to pull out a 1-1 tie with Methuen on Saturday.
Over that seven day stretch, and stayed right in the thick of the race for first place in the Merrimack Valley Conference/Dual County League Division 2 standings.
"He's come up huge for us when we need him too," said TMHS coach Derek Doherty of Petti. "When most guys grip their sticks real tight they can't hold on to the puck. But he ends up rising to the occasion and he brings it to another level."
A level that would be hard to find a match for, even if you searched the storied annals of Tewksbury High's highly successful hockey program. Petti has now scored five straight goals for TMHS, and those five goals account for every one of his team's goals in the last three consecutive games. Add to that the fact that Petti scored two goals in just nine seconds on his way to recording a natural hat trick as the Redmen beat Dracut on Wednesday, and you've got a legend in the making.
Petti has now scored 17 goals and added five assists in just 14 games, placing him among the top 20 scorers in the state. None of his 17 goals was any more spectacular than Saturday's, as Petti broke the hearts of the upset-minded Methuen players with an unassisted, end-to-end rush during which he split two defenders, stick-handled past a third and flipped a back-hander past Methuen goalie Cam Conway.
"He likes getting the speed going and touching it through you, and once he's around the net, forget it," Doherty said. "The goalie doesn't have a prayer."
Petti's goal came with just 33 seconds left to play in the game and left the Redmen smiling and the Methuen players steaming, in spite of the fact that the Rangers nearly avenged an earlier 5-2 loss to Tewksbury back in December. Methuen had taken a 1-0 lead three minutes into the third period.
"That's a much better Methuen team than the one we saw earlier," Doherty said. "Their coach has done a wonderful job with them. They have good forwards, good defense, and they played physical. I thought they were much, much better than they've ever been."
Tewksbury did have a clear advantage in time of possession, mounting prolonged attacks on the Methuen goal in all three periods. But the Redmen couldn't solve Conway until the final minute, and Doherty left the arena fairly content with a tie.
"We actually played much better today than we've played in the last few games," Doherty said. "There were points today where we could have smothered them, but we just didn't finish. There's definitely some positives were gonna take out of this game."
One positive would be the play of freshman netminder Kyle Paquette, who kept Tewksbury in the game with several spectacular saves, particularly in the second period. The Redmen defense stood tall as well, as Andrew Surrette, Adam Degregorio, Shannon Alukonis and PJ Mugford all made strong contributions at the blue line. Senior forward Mike Casey and sophomore forward Jack Cash led Tewksbury in the hustle department while sophomore forward Alex "Hammer" Hamilton dished out several bruising body checks.
Tewksbury now stands at 9-2-3 on the season, 5-2-3 in MVC/DCL play. The Redmen will face one of their stiffer tests of the year when they host Central Catholic High School Wednesday night at 8 p.m.