By Nick Curcuru
---- — STONEHAM— For one period on Saturday it looked like the Rockport hockey team was on its way to an upset over Marblehead in the Division 3 North Quarterfinals at Stoneham Arena.
Marblehead entered the contest as heavy favorites with a higher seed and an advantage in the size and speed department. But the tournament tested Vikings gave the Magicians all they could handle in the first frame slowing the game down, limiting mistakes and preventing Marblehead from earning too many quality scoring opportunities en route to a 1-0 lead after one.
Marblehead, however, proved to be too talented.
The Magicians went on to outshoot Rockport 27-6 over the final two frames (41-13 for the game) and held a 4-1 scoring advantage through the final 30 minutes of play en route to a 4-2 win. Marblehead now moves on to the sectional semifinals to square off with Swampscott while Rockport’s season comes to an end.
“We wanted to jump out and get a lead early, which we did, and have (goalie) Colby (Foster) make some big stops to gain momentum,” Rockport head coach Derek Papalegis said. “But they just keep coming at you and we had some trouble clearing our own zone. They were all over us over the last two periods.”
In the first period Rockport’s strategy was evident, it wanted to muck up the game and turn it into a grind. Early on the Vikings did just that executing Papalegis’ plan to a T.
Rockport was clogging up the neutral zone, getting into passing lanes, blocking shots and preventing the Magicians from using their superior speed to break up the ice. Senior goalie Colby Foster (37 saves) also helped matters with another stellar performance in a big game.
The Vikings found the back of the net first 4:29 into the game when Mike Tupper made a nice move past a Magicians defenseman and put a shot on goalie Myles Barry. Barry made the initial save but senior Josh Guertin was right there to bang home the rebound for a 1-0 Vikings lead and some momentum.
That momentum would last through the first as Rockport skated into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
It was the second period where Marblehead began to find its legs dominating play from start to finish. Ian Maag tied the score at 1-1 just 1:37 into the frame scoring on a rebound from his own shot on Foster.
Five minutes later Maag struck again, this time he was in the right place at the right time intercepting a dangerous Rockport clearing pass attempt in the high slot and beating Foster with a wrist shot to make it 2-1.
Marblehead continued the onslaught until the horn sounded to end the second period outshooting Rockport 17-1 in the frame. The Vikings did not get a shot on goal until there was just 41 seconds to play in the period. If it weren’t for Foster’s play in net Marblehead could have really opened the floodgates and put the game away.
With Foster keeping his team within striking distance, Rockport finally found some offensive life in the third period with three good scoring chances coming on and directly after a third period power play.
A tough break, however, would give the Magicians some insurance. With Rockport threatening Marblehead was able to clear its zone and Bates sprung Tom Koopman alone on a breakaway. Koopman would beat Foster to score the back breaking goal and what turned out to be the game winner with 7:07 to play.
“That goal kind of took the wind out of our sails,” Papalegis said. “We were working and starting to generate some offensive chances.”
To the surprise of no one, Rockport continued to battle and thanks to an outstanding effort from Tucker Reedy, cut the Magicians lead to 3-2 with 5:28 to play. Reedy notched his first goal in what has been an injury plagued season by weaving his way through two Magicians defensemen and beating Barry with a forehand shot for the goal. The goal and overall play in the contest drew praise from Papalegis, who called Reedy’s came “his best game of the season.”
That was as close as Rockport would get as Maag completed the hat trick scoring on an empty Rockport net with 37 seconds to play to preserve the win.
Saturday’s loss was the final high school game for 13 Rockport seniors that will be sorely missed in the future. Over the past four seasons the Rockport seniors have put together a better resume than any other senior class to go through the school including a Commonwealth Athletic Conference Championship this season to go along with many more achievements.
“This loss definitely stings for them at the moment,” Papalegis said. “But when the dust is settled these 13 seniors will look back and see all that they’ve accomplished here. Four trips to the state tournament, conference title this season, the most wins in school history and the longest tournament run in school history last season. These seniors put Rockport hockey back on the map and they deserve all the credit in the world for it.”