By Conor Walsh
---- — GLOUCESTER -- With Winthrop coming to town last night, the Gloucester hockey team knew what to expect in a game it desperately needed to win.
The Vikings live up to their reputation as a defensive force, having surrendered just 1.4 goals per game through their first 14 games.
Having that knowledge, the Fishermen knew they had to pepper Winthrop goaltender Ray Feeley with shots if they intended to get back to .500 with a win last night.
Ultimately, though, the 18 shots Gloucester managed were far from enough to overcome the vaunted Winthrop defense, and the Vikings rode two second-period goals to a 2-0 win and Feeley’s fifth shutout of the year.
With the win, the Vikings clinched a postseason appearance, and with the loss, the Fishermen fell ever closer to another year without a state tournament berth.
“I think Winthrop played a good defensive game,” Gloucester coach Don Lowe said. “We didn’t get enough shots on net. I think the boys worked hard, we just didn’t get enough shots on net and that’s just Winthrop’s style.”
The Vikings took it to Gloucester from the opening puck drop, but the Fishermen were able to keep Winthrop’s opportunities to the perimeter and eventually level the ice as the first period wore on.
The Fishermen even gained some momentum after successfully killing off a lengthy 5-on-3 from the Vikings at the start of the second period and began to push for the game’s first goal.
It all began to fall apart for Gloucester, though,when Winthrop’s leading scorer Chris Page undressed a Gloucester defensemen in the neutral zone and walked in all alone on Owen Parisi (25 saves) before ripping a shot just inside the left post to put the Vikings up 1-0.
Five minutes later, Winthrop defenseman David Capone laced a bomb from the point on the power play to increase the lead to a commanding 2-0.
For many teams, a 2-0 lead isn’t decisive. But for a team that rarely, if ever, gives an inch, it proved to be enough.
Gloucester pushed back in the third period, even earning two power plays in the game’s final five minutes, but Winthrop’s defense smothered the Fishermen’s comeback attempts.
For Gloucester, the impact of the injuries that are starting to pile up was obvious. Captain defenseman Mike Muniz missed his third game with a nagging injury, and when defenseman Ryan Whittemore went down during last night’s game, an already thin defensive corps was depleted even farther.
With the injuries, Gloucester’s leading scorer, Alex Webb, has been forced from his usual spot centering the second line to the blue line. And while Webb’s been solid defensively and absolutely devouring minutes, and Jared Favazza’s been similarly solid filling Webb’s usual spot, the impact of the injuries is starting to become clear.
The Fishermen’s attack has been a shell of what it was during a midseason run without Webb pacing the second line, and with just five games left in Gloucester’s push for the playoffs, a consistent goal-scoring effort is a must.
“We were going to put (Webb) up tonight, but we couldn’t between the loss of Muniz and now we lost Whittemore tonight,” Lowe said. “We’re thin on defensemen. We did put him up some, we put him up to start each period with his line, but I don’t know how much offense we’re really losing.”
Now sitting at 6-8-1, it’s officially crunch time for the Fishermen. With five games remaining -- against Saugus, Triton, Peabody, Beverly and Melrose -- Gloucester can afford only one more loss if it intends to return to the tournament.
Three of those opponents -- Saugus, Peabody and Melrose -- appear beatable. With Triton and Beverly, though, the Fishermen will need to steal a point or two to extend their season.
For now, though, it’s a one-game-at-a-time mantra in the Fishermen locker room.
“We’ve just got to work hard and keep our heads up,” Lowe said. “I think they put an effort in tonight. I don’t think anybody backed down, things just didn’t bounce for us tonight.”
Winthrop 2, Gloucester 0
at Talbot Rink, Gloucester
Winthrop 0 2 0 — 2
Gloucester 0 0 0 — 0
First period: No scoring.
Second period: W, Chris Page (Pat Todisco), 6:33; W, David Capone (Jake McKinnon, Steven Goddard) PPG, 11:28.
Third period: No scoring.
Saves: W, Ray Feeley 18; G, Owen Parisi 25.
Records: W 8-3-4; G 6-8-1.