GLOUCESTER — Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean that the Marblehead High boys hockey team isn't still accepting presents.
Their Northeastern Conference rivals from Gloucester gave them three on Saturday night at the Talbot Rink, and the Headers said thank you very much each time en route to defending their Cape Ann League Savings Bank Tournament crown.
Three unassisted goals off of a trio of Fishermen miscues were enough for the Headers to prevail, 3-2. Junior captain Will Shull, who won tournament MVP honors, scored the game-winner on a breakaway shorthanded tally.
That goal, coming with 13 seconds to go in the second period, came after Shull picked the puck clean from a Gloucester defenseman at the blue line (who was waiting for his teammates to get back onsides) and skated in alone on goalie Connor Vittands (23 saves), dekeing before beating him wide with a wrister.
"It starts with a good defensive zone coverage when you have the faith in the guys behind you, you can jump on the puck in that situation," said Shull, whose goal was his team-leading ninth of the season. "I saw it squirt loose ... and a split second hesitation is all it took."
The Fishermen (now 0-3-2) made it a one-goal game on a 6-on-4 power play goal with 2:14 left in regulation as senior defenseman Jeremy Abreu tucked the puck inside the left post off a scrum, making it 3-2. But Marblehead managed to prevent any further damage, getting a key defensive zone faceoff win from senior center Zach Piersol with 7.2 seconds left that essentially iced the game.
"It was an encouraging game," said Gloucester head coach Derek Geary, "but I told the guys afterwards that we can't wait until there's two minutes left and (our) goal is empty to be giving it absolutely everything we have. I really admire Marblehead and the way they play with a lot of heart, but all three goals we gave them were gifts."
In the visitor's locker room, Marblehead bench boss Chris Wells felt this was the "most complete" game his team has played out of their first six contests. A big part of that, he said, was his players' willingness to do the so-called little things that don't show up on the scoresheet.
"It was taking a hit, making sacrifices, blocking shots. I saw all of that tonight," said Wells. "Collin Hart is a good example; he gets a pass from the wing just before he gets blown up, but manages to chip the puck out of the zone to make a play. That's what I'm talking about."
The two squads traded first period goals as freshman Chris Locke's shot went from Vittands' blocker off of a defenseman and into the cage behind him just 2:09 in. The Fishermen responded 70 seconds later when superstar sophomore Jack Costanzo buried a rebound far post.
Marblehead began taking momentum in the middle stanza, putting a dozen shots on Vittands and went into the intermission with a 3-1 lead. Hart pounced on a turnover in the Gloucester end and slipped it home, giving the Headers a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Shull's shorthanded snipe extended that lead.
"It felt like we didn't show up in the second period," countered Geary. "We lost just about every 1-on-1 battle and made poor decisions when we did have it. Connor is a stud goalie and leader for us who played his heart out, but we didn't help him in that period."
Still seeking their first win, the Fishermen will have plenty of practice time before their next game on January 4 at Larsen Rink against host Winthrop.
"We want every shift to be 100 percent effort," said Geary. "We need to have that sense of urgency all the time; you can't take a vacation for one shift or the puck ends up in the back of your net. We have to believe in the process and that it's all about effort and sustaining the attitude that gets you to be a better player and a better team."
Marblehead 3, Gloucester 2
Cape Ann Savings Bank Tournament championship
at Talbot Rink, Gloucester
Marblehead 1 2 0 — 3
Gloucester 1 0 1 — 2
First period: M, Christopher Locke (un), 2;09; G, Jack Costanzo (Ryan Bergin, Aidan Donald), 3:19.
Second period: M, Collin Hart (un), 12:04; M, Will Shull (un), shg, 14:43.
Third period: G, Jeremy Abreu (Bergin, E.J. Field), ppg, 13:14.
Saves: M, Peter Santeusanio 21; G, Connor Vittands 24.
Records: M, 5-1-0; G, 2-3-1.