Unfortunately for the the 2011-2012 season ended just the way it started. On a down note.
The defending Division 2 State Champion Redmen got stung early and never recovered Tuesday night, suffering a 4-0 loss to Winthrop High in their opening round MIAA state tournament game at the Stoneham Arena.
Winthrop forward Matt Todisco scored what proved to be the game-winning goal just 1:09 into the first period, effectively knocking the young TMHS team right off its game plan, and things never got better after that.
Two second period goals put the game out of reach and a fourth goal in the third period added insult to injury as Tewksbury's dreams of making another strong post-season run were ruined before the Redmen knew what hit them.
"We were hesitant," . "For most of these guys it was their first time playing in a state tournament game, and I think you could tell.
"We came out exactly like ," Doherty added. "It was like, 'What are we supposed to expect?'"
Winthrop outshot TMHS by a 2-1 margin, out-hustling and out-hitting the Redmen for much of the game. Tewksbury threatened early in the second period when junior forward Derek Petti rattled the goalpost beside Viking netminder Steven Waites, but two costly turnovers resulted in two critical Winthrop goals later that period. Senior forward Chris LeBlanc stole the puck at the Tewksbury blue line and skated in alone to make it 2-0 with 4:24 gone in the second, and junior forward Nick Ammatucci made it 3-0 when he fired through a screen and beat Tewksbury goalie Kyle Paquette at the 11:06 mark of the second.
The Redmen skated hard in the early moments of the third period, but all hope was lost when Petti, the team's leading scorer with 28 regular season goals this year, suffered a wrist injury four minutes into the final period and left the game. Petti was taken to a nearby hospital for x-rays at the conclusion of the game.
Even before the injury, however, Winthrop had done a better job than most at keeping the explosive Petti in check.
"They keyed on him, absolutely," Doherty said. "Your goal is always to take the other team's best player away and they did that."
LeBlanc, whole led Winthrop with 18 goals and 19 assists in the regular season, sealed the deal with his second goal of the game with 6:12 left to play.
"Winthrop was definitely the better team tonight," Doherty said. "They out-played us and they out-worked us. We won it last year with three lines and four defensemen, and that's what you need to win this thing. You can't go out there and be unsure of yourself, you have to go out there with confidence and be positive, and I think we were hesitant."
Senior forward Dan Ladderbush and senior defenseman PJ Mugford both played well for Tewksbury, as did junior forward Patrick Doherty.
The Redmen finish with a 12-5-4 record, which left Doherty fairly satisfied given the fact that Tewksbury had graduated a highly-talented senior class after winning the state championship last year.
"We did pretty good," Doherty said. "I expect a lot from the kids coming in, but from outside looking in you'd say, 'No way.' But I tell you right now, we have a lot of young talent in that locker room."