By Conor Walsh
---- — SALEM — As the Gloucester hockey team has proven all season, it doesn’t always have to be pretty.
That’s never been more accurate for the Fishermen than it was last night when they took on a strong Swampscott team at Salem State University’s Rockett Arena.
The Big Blue carried play for much of the game, throwing waves of offense on the Gloucester net and keeping the Fishermen away from their own.
At the end of the day, though, Swampscott’s dominance didn’t much matter. Despite outshooting the Fishermen, 40-22, the Big Blue ultimately fell to Gloucester, which rode a Cam DeCoste hat trick and a 38-save performance from goalie Owen Parisi to an important 4-2 victory.
The win gets Gloucester back to .500 at 6-6-1. To qualify for the state tournament, the Fishermen will need to earn seven of 14 possible points down the stretch.
“I think we were outplayed for most of the night and we’re lucky to win the game,” Gloucester coach Don Lowe said after the game. “It was a good thing the goaltender stopped 40 shots or we wouldn’t have won the game. Nice to see Cam DeCoste get a couple goals when we needed them. More points for the tournament. We play every game to get two points and we got another two points tonight.”
While it may have been ugly, last night’s was an impressive win for Gloucester. Swampscott entered the game tied atop the NEC South standings at 10-3, and Salem State’s large ice surface gave the speedy Big Blue an edge before the game even began.
To make matters worse for Gloucester, an injury kept captain Mike Muniz — who plays monster minutes on the blue line — out of the game, forcing second-line center and leading scorer Alex Webb to the blue line.
But after trading blows through the first two periods, which were largely dominated by Swampscott, Gloucester leveled the ice in the third period and finally broke a 2-2 tie with fewer than six minutes to play when DeCoste completed his hat trick.
Like his first goal, DeCoste had parked himself in front of the Swampscott net and banged home a slick pass from defenseman Casey Eastman -- who was making his first varsity appearance.
“He’s the new man on the roster. Secret weapon,” Lowe said. “Made a great play. Some people were mad at me for putting him on the ice, but he did a good job.”
Less than three minutes later, Casey Noyes picked a Swampscott defenseman’s pocket and snuck a nifty wraparound past Big Blue goaltender Trent Gallagher (18 saves) to give the Fishermen a valuable insurance goal.
And as Swampscott pushed for the equalizer and pulled its goalie with nearly three minutes left to play, Gloucester and Parisi held strong to preserve the important win.
“This says a lot about us,” DeCoste said. “We had to do it tonight. You pretty much have to get to the dirty areas in a game like this. Not going to get a free goal. Got to get down there deep to win a game like this.”
Gloucester got off to a fortunate start in the first period. Having been outskated 5-on-5 and held scoreless through three power plays -- including one 22-second two-man advantage — it seemed the Fishermen had missed what may have been their only opportunities.
But after their third power play expired, Webb walked the blue line and laced a wrist shot on net, where DeCoste fought through a battle to tip it past Gallagher, giving Gloucester the lead with just 28 seconds left in the period.
Parisi stood on his head for much of the second period, preserving Gloucester’s slim lead with save after save while the Big Blue poured it on net.
“Owen played great, he really kept us in it,” DeCoste said. “He was a big part of keeping us in the game. They had 40 shots we had like 20, he kept us in it, played really good.”
Swampscott finally got past Parisi with power-play goals from Nunzio Moretti and Chris Carman midway through the frame, forcing Lowe to take his team’s timeout as the game appeared to be slipping away.
Something clicked after that timeout, though, as Gloucester pushed back and knotted the game at two late in the frame when DeCoste beat Gallagher for the second time, this time just off an offensive zone faceoff win by Pete Mondello.
Gloucester rode the momentum into the third period, which was fairly even until DeCoste completed his hat trick and Noyes sealed the win.
In the end, it was far from pretty, and it was a game Gloucester was lucky to have won.
But for a team that’s often folded in tough games, both this year and in recent seasons, the Fishermen’s perseverance demonstrates how far the team has come over recent weeks. That mental shift in the locker room could prove to be all the difference as Gloucester continues to push for a playoff spot.
“We slowed down a lot in the beginning (of the season), really bad,” DeCoste said. “But we realized we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do with what we have and we just kind of snapped out of it.”
Gloucester 4, Swampscott 2
at Rockett Arena, Salem
Gloucester 1 1 2 | 4
Swampscott 0 2 0 | 2
First period: G, Cam DeCoste (Alex Webb), 14:32.
Second period: S, Nunzio Moretti (Robert Serino, Noah Maercklein) PPG, 8:53; S, Chris Carman (Maercklein, Moretti) PPG, 10:33; G, DeCoste (Pete Mondello), 12:02.
Third period: G, DeCoste (Casey Eastman, Alex Enes), 8:41; G, Casey Noyes (Eastman), 11:39.
Saves: G, Owen Parisi 38; S, Trent Gallagher 18.
Records: G, 6-6-1; S, 10-4.