Perhaps more than any other thing, it’s depth that often separates hockey teams.
Depth boosts a team’s pedigree. With depth, good teams become great. Mediocre teams become good ones. Even bad teams can sneak into the tournament with depth.
Nowhere is that kind of depth seen more than in a team’s third line. And while the Gloucester hockey team has had a tough start to the year — the Fishermen were 2-5-1 entering last night’s game after Saturday’s 7-3 drubbing of Revere — its third line of underclassmen has been a nice surprise.
For many high school teams, a third line is essentially a placeholder, equivalent to an innings-eating pitcher at the back end of a baseball team’s rotation. Get out there, keep the team in the game, and give the top-six forwards a chance to get a breath.
While that may have been the expected role for Gloucester’s third line of sophomores Jared Favazza and Jack Nicastro and freshman Eddie Mahoney before the season started, though, they’ve proven to be much more than that.
They play the ultimate grinder’s game, a style of play surely appreciated by those who’ve followed the notoriously gritty Fishermen over the years.
The trio plays a strong defensive game, all three also seeing time on the penalty kill. But where they’ve exceeded expectations is in the offensive zone.
Granted, they’ve combined for just three of the team’s 19 goals to date, Mahoney with two and Nicastro with one. What they’ve done, though, is wear opponents down. They’ve carved out a style for themselves with a low cycle, pinning teams deep in their defensive zone and helping to build momentum for their teammates.
And perhaps most importantly, they play like they belong. Where many underclassmen begin their varsity careers with a timid style, there’s no fear in this line. They try to create offense, skate right with opponents and bring the kind of physical identity one would expect more from their older teammates.