It was one of those endings that, if it showed up in a Hollywood film, one would have to laugh it off for being unbelievable.
In fact, one would have had to have seen the ending of the 2008 Division 2 North Quarter Final hockey showdown between Gloucester and Newburyport to believe it.
Tied at 5-5 with the final seconds ticking off the scoreboard at Salem State University, the Fishermen and Clippers appeared to be heading into overtime. But in the blink of an eye Newburyport scored one of the more improbable and impossible looking goals you will see in a high school hockey game to pick up a 6-5 win and hand Gloucester an absolutely crushing defeat.
With the puck in the Clippers’ offensive zone, an attempted shot on goal deflected off a stick and went straight up in the air. As the puck began to head down toward the ice Newburyport junior forward Kevin Holmes took a stab at the puck similar to a baseball swing. Holmes not only got good wood on the puck, he hit it hard enough to get it past Gloucester goalie Bradley Robertson with just nine seconds left on the clock. The goal was the third of the game for Holmes and the game winner.
While the Clippers players jubilantly celebrated, the Fishermen could only look on in horror and disbelief, shocked by what had just occurred. It took just a split second to execute, but that split second play ended up finishing Gloucester’s season.
“Just watching the puck go in was unexplainable,” Holmes said after the 2008 win. “It was a little bit out of the ordinary, but as long as it goes in I don’t care how.”
While the ending was devastating for the Fishermen, the previous 44:50 were about as entertaining as a hockey game can get.
The wild contest featured lots of offensive talent and momentum swings that put the crowd’s anxiety levels on high alert. Every time one team would sieze the momentum, the other would take it away in no time. Though the 45 minutes of high level hockey the score was tied on five different occasions and there were four lead changes.
The teams also had a little history heading into the contest as the Clippers owned a 4-2 win over the Fishermen just a month prior. In the win, Newburyport dominated Gloucester physically and the Fishermen were champing at the bit for a rematch.
The first two minutes of the game were a sign of things to come as Newburyport took a 1-0 lead just 1:09 into the game on Holmes’ first goal of the contest. The Clippers lead lasted exactly 50 seconds as Gloucester’s Jeremy Fanning tied the score at 1-1 on a pass from Andrew Fulford.
Defenseman Paul Russo gave Gloucester a 2-1 lead just over four minutes later, but Gloucester’s lead didn’t even last two minutes as Holmes scored another goal 1:47 later.
The back and forth action continued in the second period as Newburyport took a 3-2 lead 5:44 in to the frame on a goal from Chris Gogolos.
That 3-2 lead was the longest lasting lead of the game as it took Gloucester just under nine minutes to tie the score, when Fulford beat Clippers goalie Anthony Federico with 23 seconds left in the period to make it 3-3. Fulford’s goal came with a Clippers defenseman essentially draped on his back.
Gloucester took the lead back 6:30 into the third period on a goal from Marc Buotte but once again the Clippers answered right back. Kyle McElroy put home a pass from Holmes just 1:30 later to tie the score at 4-4.
Just 2:27 later, however, Gloucester scored again when Biondo scored after the puck took a fortunate bounce off the glass into the corner and onto Biondo’s waiting stick in the slot.
Predictably but incredibly, Newburyport answered yet again when Derek McCoy blasted a one timer past Robertson just 49 seconds later to tie the score for the fifth time.
Three and a half minutes later Holmes would be the hero with the unorthodox goal finishing up the scoring in a wild and crazy roller coaster ride of a game where every fan in attendance got more than their money’s worth.
The first 44:50 of play were enough to make this game a night to remember, but it was the finish that puts this game on another level.
Nick Curcuru can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3444, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.