By Conor Walsh
---- — SAUGUS — It wasn’t long ago that any meeting between the Gloucester and Saugus hockey teams had serious implications on the NEC North standings.
When the two teams met last night at Saugus’ Kasabuski Rink, though, it was a far different story. Rather than hoping to justify conference title hopes, the Fishermen and Sachems were each looking to simply get in the win column for the first time on the season.
By the time everything was said and done, it was the Fishermen who were left with a zero in the win column. The Sachems wore Gloucester down in a penalty-ridden, chippy contest, riding sound defense and timely scoring to a 3-0 victory.
“This was big for us,” Saugus coach Jeff Natalucci said. “Coming into this at 0-4, we needed some confidence and I thought this was our most consistent game so far. Four losses and in three of them we got beat pretty good, but we stuck with it and got the win tonight.”
The energy that had been largely missing for the Fishermen through much of the season returned last night. With it, though, came penalties.
Starting early in the game, the scrums started, and emotion got the better of Gloucester throughout the game. It seemed as though every time the Fishermen (0-4-1) began to find a rhythm, they’d put Saugus on the man-advantage.
Despite that, though, the Fishermen were very much in the game. Saugus forward John Prentice took advantage of a Gloucester defensive miscue midway through the first period to put the Sachems up, 1-0, but outside of that goal the Fishermen played a complete first period.
That carried into the second, where they were able to hold off a Saugus push and kill off a 5-on-3 thanks to the play of goaltender Jesse Glidden (29 saves) and the corps of defensemen in front of him.
Gloucester’s lack of discipline finally came back to haunt it, though, when a boarding call put Saugus on the power play for the fourth time with just more than a minute left in the second frame.
And with just 15 seconds left on the clock, a soft shot from Saugus’ Victor DeMatteo found a way through traffic and past a screened Glidden for the kind of quirky goal that can often seal a game.
It did just that. Saugus forward Anthony Cieri iced the win with a breakaway goal coming out of the penalty box with just over a minute left in the third period, and despite a decent showing, Gloucester once again wasn’t able to find enough for the win.
“I think we worked pretty hard, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net,” Gloucester coach Don Lowe said. “I give Saugus some credit, and I thought Glidden made some pretty good saves, but overall I thought the guys worked hard all game.”
The Fishermen’s struggles have begun and ended with their ability to score. More often than not, they’ve been at least adequate on the defensive end. But an average of just 1.4 goals per game is simply putting too much pressure on Gloucester’s defense.
More than any other this season, last night’s loss is cause for concern for the Fishermen. Losses to Danvers (an NEC North frontrunner), Marblehead (NEC South favorites) and Triton (a CAL powerhouse) could be stomached by the Fishermen.
But the Sachems (1-4) should not be considered in the same league as those other opponents. They were fleeced by Beverly and Danvers by a combined score of 15-1 early in the season and dropped non-league contests to Melrose and Wakefield prior to last night’s game.
With seven games left against the NEC North and tough non-league matchups with Newburyport, Triton and Rockport left on the schedule, things are only going to get tougher for the Fishermen.
“The NEC North is the NEC North,” Natalucci said. “You’re in for a battle every night.”
Saugus 3, Gloucester 0
at Kasabuski Rink, Saugus
Gloucester 0 0 0 — 0
Saugus 1 1 1 — 3
First period: S, John Prentice (Chris Sanderson, Anthony Cieri), 7:48.
Second period: S, Victor DeMatteo (Nick Straticos, Anthony LoPresti) PPG, 14:45.
Third period: S, Cieri (Nick Sweeney), 13:54.
Saves: G, Jesse Glidden 29; S, Anthony Allan 31.
Records: G 0-4-1; S 1-4.