SALEM — Matt Koopman can look back now and refer to it as a learning curve in his development as both a young man and a highly talented hockey player.
The rest of his Marblehead teammates and coaching staff may refer to it as the moment that changed their season for the better.
Since being benched four games ago during a game against Peabody, Koopman has been on fire offensively. He continued that trend last night against Danvers by scoring twice, including a shorthanded tally, and dishing out an assist in the Headers’ 5-1 Northeastern Conference victory at Rockett Arena.
“I had a good talk with the coaches after that happened, and I think it’s really helped me a lot,” said Koopman. “I’ve been able to get my offensive game going ever since.”
Koopman has scored 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in the three games since Peabody, not coincidentally all of which are Marblehead (14-5 overall) wins. His older brother, senior captain Tom Koopman, added two assists last night while senior Miles Barry earned his sixth victory in goal.
“As a young adult, Matt was trying to do too much himself (beforehand). At any level of hockey, that just doesn’t work,” said Marblehead head coach Bob Jackson, whose team outshot Danvers, 37-11. “The biggest thing he can now pat himself on the back about is that he’s matured and really working well with (linemates) Tom and Braden (Haley). His maturing has helped that entire line start clicking and really benefited us as a team.”
It was a potentially fatal setback for Danvers (7-9-1), which now must secure no worse than two wins and tie in its final three games to qualifying for the state playoffs for the 24th time in the last quarter-century.
The Falcons managed just one shot on goal in the final period and seemed to lose their aggressiveness as the game wore on. Marblehead, which rolled four lines and seven defensemen, simply never stopped attacking and the Blue-and-White were unable to match that pace.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” said head coach Kevin Brown. “We need to own up to the fact that we didn’t play well and we didn’t coach well. You have to take that responsibility. Otherwise, you’re not being honest.”
Matt Koopman, who now has 16 goals and 34 points (tied with brother Tom for the team scoring lead), scored one of the prettiest goals of the season on a man-down situation in the second period. With his team leading 2-0, he flew up the left wing, cut inside and beat a Danvers defender with a toe drag in the slot, faked goaltender Alex Taylor and scored with a high, arcing backhand bar down.
“That one’s right up there,” the 15-year-old center smiled when asked if that goal was one of his all-time favorites. “I initially was going to try and go wide (down the left side), but their guy gave me a lot of space in the middle so I made my move and took it. He bit on the drag, the goalie bought the fake and I was able to put it upstairs.”
The third Koopman brother, defenseman Kyle (Matt’s older twin, by 12 minutes), said the Headers were aggressive throughout because they used two of their greatest strengths — speed and crashing the net — to their full advantage.
“We want to treat every opponent like they’re Beverly or Winthrop,” said Kyle Koopman, now a plus-25 on the season. “Our push for the (state) tournament has started. (Assistant) coach (Mark) Tarmey has said from the first day of tryouts that what we do now will affect what happens in March. We have to be prepared the entire season, not just show up and expect results in the playoffs.”
Sophomore center Owen Picariello scored on a pretty backhand out front to give the Headers a 1-0 lead after one period. Matt Koopman made it 2-0 just 24 seconds into the middle stanza before his spectacular shorthanded tally (his third SHG of the year) increased that lead to 3-0.
Danvers captain Kevin Hodgkins knocked home a Matt Flynn rebound to put the hosts on the board at 3:51, but Header senior defenseman Trevor Gelineau’s shot from the left point tipped off a Falcon defender’s stick and into the net, restoring Marblehead’s three-goal lead after 30 minutes. Senior left wing Erik Powers’ 11th goal of the season, coming 54 seconds into the final frame, ended the scoring.
“We cycled the puck really well and forced their wingers up along the walls, which freed up our defensemen to get the puck at the points and get good, quick shots on goal,” said Kyle Koopman. “Trevor got his that way; it was good to see.”
Danvers was able to empty its bench in the third period and got some fine play from senior defenseman Mike Maijenski on Senior Night.