---- — GLOUCESTER — A lopsided, 10-0 loss to Melrose was obviously far from the way the Gloucester hockey team hoped to end its season last night.
But while the Fishermen’s season ended on that sour note on the team’s Senior Night at Talbot Rink last night, it was far from indicative of the strides Gloucester had taken this season.
Depleted by injury, the Fishermen you may have seen last night was not the team that Gloucester trotted out day in and day out during this season.
And while the Fishermen (8-11-1) will find themselves left out of the Division 2 North tournament for the third-straight season (fourth time in the last five seasons) when the postseason kicks off next week, this season was a clear step in the right direction.
Take, for instance, the Fishermen’s rebound after a horrendous start to the season. At 0-4-1 after a loss to a middling Saugus team Jan. 3, it seemed we might be in for a disastrous season.
Instead, though, this year’s Fishermen embraced the tough, gritty approach to the game that had been missing in recent years’ teams.
Gloucester got its first win in the game immediately following that ugly loss to Saugus, knocking off Peabody in a back-and-forth game behind two third-period goals.
From there, the Fishermen won five of their next six, and the team that appeared all-but out of the running just weeks into the season had transformed itself into a tournament contender.
Gloucester may have struggled down the stretch, going through the gauntlet of the NEC North and dealing with a brutal non-league schedule that included the likes of Triton (twice), Newburyport and Melrose while dealing with a rash of injuries, most notably to senior captain defenseman Mike Muniz, who missed several games with an injury late in the season.
It’s not to say that the Fishermen’s season will be remembered fondly. It shouldn’t. In reality, the team that strung together eight wins showed the ability to have done more and certainly showed enough to be a tournament team.
But while there were problems during the season, it was the return of the attitude the Gloucester hockey team has been known for that this team should be remembered for.
This crop of Fishermen grinded. They battled. And while they were facing an uphill climb for much of the season, they still carried themselves as though they could -- and should -- win every time they stepped out there.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. The combination of a slow start, tough schedule and roster devoid of much depth ultimately proved to be too much for Gloucester to overcome.
The Fishermen did, however, show that they weren’t going to quit when recent Gloucester teams may have.
Coach Don Lowe spoke regularly during the team’s early-season scuffles of a need for “more heart.” Those complaints were short-lived. Beginning in January and ending last night, this team’s effort couldn’t be questioned.
How the Fishermen will build off of this season remains to be seen. They’ll be hit hard by graduation, losing top-6 forwards Alex Webb, Pete Mondello and Cam DeCoste and key defensive cogs in Muniz and Ryan Whittemore.
It seems, at least, that the mind-set that led the Fishermen to the top of the NEC and, oftentimes, the state, has returned. And with that attitude, better days may very well be on the horizon.