By Phil Stacey
---- — SALEM — First they came out and rocked their classic red hockey jerseys, worn only for special occasions and state tournament games.
Then they proceeded to rock their arch rivals from Swampscott.
Behind two goals from junior captain Tom Koopman as well as a goal and two assists from his freshman brother, Matt Koopman, the Marblehead boys hockey team imposed its will on Swampscott and controlled virtually all facets of the game, taking a 5-0 triumph last night at the Rockett Arena.
With junior Harrison Young recording his fourth shutout of the season, Marblehead (13-3) not only swept its two-game season series with the Big Blue, but also clinched at least a share of their fourth straight Northeastern Conference South title. A win or a tie in either of their two remaining league games will give the Headers the crown outright.
“I thought we played well in the first period, but in the second and third period Marblehead did what they do best: they won almost all the 1-on-1 battles and fought for everything they wanted,” said Swampscott head coach Gino Faia. His team finished with 19 shots, but only managing nine of those when the two teams were at even strength.
“We didn’t play as physically as you need to against a team like that ... they’re so strong physically that even those times we tried to battle them 1-on-1, they’re winning most of those battles.”
Playing without their best player, injured captain Trevor Massey on defense, hurt Swampscott (11-5) in several key areas. Not only were they unable to clear the front of their own net with regularity — four of Marblehead’s five goals came either off of rebounds or tipped shots — but without their on-ice quarterback, the Big Blue had trouble mounting a comeback once they fell behind.
Sensing this, Marblehead pounced at every opportunity. The Headers put 35 shots on freshman netminder Tristan Bradley (who kept the game close with a number of terrific saves, particularly pad stops), scored on two of three power play chances and continually cycled the puck into the Swampscott zone while keeping their opponents hemmed in from the center ice red line on back.
“We switched the power play up 3 or 4 games back to more of an umbrella where we crash off of it, set up down below and get shots to the net. I think we’ve converted 5 of our last 7 chances,” said Tom Koopman, whose 15 goals are second on the team. “That really all starts from the guys who are drawing the penalties; (fourth liner) Joe Newall did that perfectly tonight to help get us a goal.
“Physically, we know we (Koopman along with fellow first liners Ian Maag and Ty Bates) have to set the tempo. We might not be the smoothest skating line around, but we know how to set the tempo and get shots on net.”
Tom Koopman put back a rebound of a Maag shot from the right point for a power play goal, giving Marblehead a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes. Fourth liner Tim Kalinowski, a freshman, doubled his team’s lead with a laser from inside the left circle, and Matt Koopman’s seventh goal of the season, off another rebound, made it 3-0 just 92 seconds later. Marblehead then killed off a 5-on-3 Swampscott power play to take further momentum.
Liam Gillis’ shot from the left point was tipped home by Tom Koopman for his second power play strike of the night with six minutes to play, and Aaron DeAngelo finished things off for the Red-and-Black two minutes later.
“We’ve really worked a lot on our defensive coverage as a team, with everyone getting back and helping out,” said Marblehead head coach Bob Jackson. “We wanted to treat this like a state tournament game, holding them to one goal or less while scoring four or more. We were able to achieve both.”
“All (assistant) Coach (Mark) Tarmey emphasizes is, ‘Win the 1-on-1s, and you win the shift. You do that and you win the period, and if you do that you win the game’,” added Tom Koopman. “He tells us that all the time, and you could see that working tonight.
“Consistency is the biggest thing for our team: we want to come out strong and stay strong throughout the game. We’ve got the depth and the talent to do it; it’s just a matter of actually doing it.”