STONEHAM — In most hockey shootouts, the shooter bearing down the net controls the speed.
Marblehead senior goalie Mike Harper has other ideas.
Using an aggressive style that saw him sprint out to meet the shooter, Harper stopped four of five Shawsheen tries as the Headers toppled the Rams, 3-2, in a Division 3 North first round game at Stoneham Arena last night.
"I want to get out there and I don't want to be slow," said Harper, who made 29 saves in regulation. "I want to decide the pace. A lot of people think the shooter decides the pace, but I feel its my job to throw him off his plan."
The defending Division 3 state champion Headers met Shawsheen in the tournament for the fourth straight year and knocked out the fifth-seeded Rams (12-6-3) for the third straight season.
The foundation of last year's championship team graduated, leaving Marblehead seeded 12th out of 12 teams in this year's bracket. But the Headers (8-11-2) won the Northeastern Conference South title this winter to get back in the state tourney and will now face No. 4 Rockport in the quarterfinals Sunday back in Stoneham (8 p.m.).
"This was the best game we played all year — and it couldn't have come at a better time, because we felt Shawsheen was one of the best teams in the bracket," said Marblehead coach Bob Jackson. "The last four years the (Division 3 North) champion has been us or Shawsheen."
Deadlocked 2-2 after 45 minutes, the two teams embarked on a 12-minute sudden death overtime. Harper made two nice saves on Shawsheen's Joe Sodergren and Marblehead's Tom Koopman and Trevor Jones nearly ended it, but neither team scored and the shootout ensued.
Sodergren's first bid beat Harper and the second Shawsheen shooter used the same move, but the hit the post. The third Ram shooter also faked left, but Harper laid out across the crease to make the save and send momentum the Headers' way.
"They got me twice but I recovered fast. After the first one there was no way I was letting any more in," said Harper, who served as the back-up goalie the last few seasons. "I've been training for this moment for three years."
Marblehead's Austin Haley hit the pipe on his shootout try, but Koopman and Ian Maag followed with goals. Harper made two more right pad saves and the Headers won the shootout, 2-1, to win the game, 3-2.
Shawsheen led 2-1 in regulation when Tom Price's rebound goal lit the lamp at 2:09 of the third. At 5:33 however, junior captain Maag tipped Zac Cuzner's blast into the cage for the equalizer.
Marblehead lost top line winger Ty Bates to a broken wrist at the end of the second period, but not before he scored at 5:03 of the middle stanza to erase what had been a 1-0 Shawsheen lead. Maag and Koopman earned assists on Bates' rebound tally.
Shawsheen controlled play early, outshooting Marblehead 10-4 in the first and jumping ahead when Sodergren weaved around a stick lift and scored. But the Headers recovered and strong games by defensemen Liam Gillis, Trevor Gelineau, Nick Perry and Cuzner helped turn the tide.
"All our defensemen played well. We mirrored Shawsheen's cycle and kept them from getting second and third chances," said Jackson. "We skated three lines and were able to wear them down a bit."
Marblehead got some strong shifts from senior center Matt Cashman as well as junior Aaron DeAngelo and sophomore Erik Powers. Junior Cam Rowe also filled in admirably on the wing after Bates went down.