More than ‘a three hour tour:’ Greenfield hockey team preparing for Thursday’s state tourney journey to Martha’s Vineyard

Greenfield’s Shawn Baumann (8) knocks Amherst’s Brach Applegate (4) into the boards during action earlier this season at Orr Rink in Amherst. The Green Wave will play at Martha’s Vineyard in the preliminary round of the MIAA Division 4 tournament on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Greenfield’s Shawn Baumann (8) knocks Amherst’s Brach Applegate (4) into the boards during action earlier this season at Orr Rink in Amherst. The Green Wave will play at Martha’s Vineyard in the preliminary round of the MIAA Division 4 tournament on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-27-2024 5:39 PM

Modified: 02-27-2024 5:46 PM


Game postponed due to high wind advisory.

Welcome to life in the state tournament.

Such is the case for the Greenfield hockey team, which had its MIAA Division 4 state playoff game Wednesday at Martha's Vineyard postponed until Thursday due to expected high winds.

Snowstorms? Sure. Icy conditions and bad roads? Absolutely. Wind, you ask? Martha’s Vineyard athletic director Mark McCarthy is happy to explain.

“Weather is a whole other animal here,” McCarthy explained on Tuesday. “For us, dealing with the wind is our biggest concern. Down here, it’s really not about the snow but the wind and whether the boats will run or not.”

Oh yeah, the boats. Greenfield’s three-hour bus trip east on Thursday morning will take them to Woods Hole, right at the beginning of Cape Cod. Players will then file onto the 2:30 p.m. Steamship Authority ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a 45-minute ride across the water, and a bus courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will be waiting on the island to deliver the Green Wave to Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena for a 4:30 p.m. puck drop.

All told? About a five-hour trip door to door. What was the reaction when Greenfield players saw the Division 4 bracket had them traveling to play at the 8th-seeded Vineyarders?

“‘Oh my god,’ was one of them,” Greenfield athletic director Mike Kuchieski said. “But I think some of the kids are pretty excited about it. Some of them are maybe a little nervous to take a boat there, but we aren’t talking about a 16-footer here.”

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No. 25 Greenfield (11-8-1) is no stranger to lengthy bus trips. In each of the two statewide tournaments since the new format took effect in 2021-22, the Wave have traveled multiple hours to play in the Round of 32. Two years ago they saw their season come to an end against Norwell, and last year’s team was eliminated on the road at Stoneham. Those trips will seem short in comparison to Thursday’s expedition.

“With this new state tournament format, as athletic directors we told the state that these things could happen and they do happen,” McCarthy said of the trips. “These long bus rides for first round games are hard on everybody. We do have this uniqueness that some kids have never been [to Martha’s Vineyard] before. In the spring and fall, we have teams that might come over on a Saturday, and they’ll play then hang out in town for a few hours and spend some time here. In the middle of winter that doesn’t happen that much.”

Kuchieski said he was in contact with McCarthy quickly upon learning his school was heading to the Vineyard. He also contacted the Steamship Authority, booking a group rate for the entire team (about $5.50/player) and coaching staff to take the round-trip ferry.

“To be honest with you, it’s pretty seamless,” Kuchieski said. “Martha’s Vineyard has been phenomenal. Mark is a professional because he has teams coming over all the time. All told, it’s an expensive undertaking but it’s playoffs… you kind of budget for the playoffs and foreshadow ahead to how you think you’re going to do as best as possible. I don’t honestly know if we’ve got enough money for trips like this all the time but I think it’s kind of a once in a lifetime thing for 90 percent of our kids. Most of them will never get on the ferry and go to Martha’s Vineyard again in their lives.”

The weather forecast threw a wrench into the original plans however, and McCarthy talked with Kuchieski Tuesday morning to come up with an alternative plan. While boats might still operate normally on Wednesday, the threat that weather could impact their schedule was enough to push the game back a day. The Steamship Authority issued a wind advisory via the National Weather Service a few hours later, saying “Woods Hole-Martha’s Vineyard route cancellations may occur starting midday Wednesday.”

“The last thing we want is for teams to be stuck here,” McCarthy explained. “I’ve yet to have that happen in 15 years being here. There’s a chance the boats could run, but we always tend to err on the side of caution. Thursday looks better than Wednesday, by mid-afternoon Thursday the wind should be down. Sometimes we get burned but the alternative is what we want to avoid at all costs.”

As for the game itself, the Wave will have their hands full with a talented Martha’s Vineyard team. Despite a 9-9-2 record, the Vineyarders finished with a plus power rating against a difficult schedule. Last year, they reached the state quarterfinals before losing to eventual Div. 4 champion Norwell.

“They play a very difficult schedule which is what our coach wanted to do to prepare our kids for the tournament,” McCarthy said. “We have a tendency to play a tougher schedule so the kids can be prepared. Our team is solid, they skate hard, play hard… they’ll try to put pressure on the defense.”

McCarthy said the game will be livestreaming on the hockey team’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MarthasVineyardHockey) for folks not planning to make the trip themselves.