By Matt Williams
---- — SALEM — The Marblehead High hockey team is learning how to finish: their checks, their scoring opportunities — and their opponents.
The Headers finished all three last night at Rockett Arena, scoring three times in the third period to take out Danvers, 4-1. In the process, Marblehead (8-2) won its fifth straight and avenged an opening night loss to the Falcons in which they gave up four third period goals.
The Black-and-Red were determined not to allow the Falcons (6-3-2) to take command in the final stanza again. Joe Newall, Trip Franzese and Tom Koopman all found the net in the final 11:47 to send Marblehead to victory.
“We felt like we got lazy in that first game,” said Marblehead coach Bob Jackson. “Defensively, we wanted to measure where we were a month ago to where we are today — and we did a good job.”
With the game tied 1-1 heading into the third, Danvers had the better of the scoring chances early in the period. Header goalie Harrison Young stopped four shots in the early going, including point-blank bids by Adam Merry and Rob Buchanan.
Marblehead then seized control for good when senior Newall buried a slick centering feed from Franzese with 11:47 to go. Danvers couldn’t shake off heavy checks from the Headers big bodies and didn’t generate many scoring opportunities the rest of the way.
“We didn’t play well. We came out ready for the third but it dropped off,” said Danvers coach Kevin Brown. “We have to find a way to fight through those things.”
The Falcons were forced to play without senior captain and their leading goal scorer, captain Joe Strangie, who left early in first period with what Brown called an upper body injury. Strangie is day-to-day and with the Falcons off until Monday and playing just two games in the next 10 days, the hope is he won’t miss much time.
“That was a shame to see him get hurt; we hope he’s back soon,” Jackson said of the opponent’s top centerman. “That’s a real good Danvers team. Kevin always has them organized and ready and its a good win to beat a sound team like that.”
Franzese, a senior winger leading the area with 13 goals, continued his strong start to the season with two tallies and an assist. His first was a bar-down snipe assisted by Cam Rowe that erased Danvers’ 1-0 lead in the second, and his second was a wraparound bid that made it 3-1 in the third.
Skating alongside freshman center Matt Koopman and Newall, Franzese’s line was responsible for the Headers’ first three goals and proved difficult to contain below Danvers’ red line. Newall had two points and has been a solid addition to the trio.
“They’re working well together,” said Jackson. “Trip’s been a plus for us. He’s been working hard and has great hands with great speed.”
Danvers started each period with great energy, but eventually Marblehead turned the tide in all three frames. The Falcons attributed that to Marblehead’s physicality with big checks by the likes of Liam Gillis, Ty Bates and Zac Cuzner.
“They outhit us,” said Brown. “They were definitely the more physical team, and that did take some of our legs away.”
After a scoreless first, senior A.J. Couto gave Danvers the lead when he corralled his own rebound and flipped it into the cage. Matt Flynn and defenseman Ryan Cassidy, who had the Falcons’ biggest hit of the game in the third, earned assists on the play.
As has been their custom, however, Marblehead retook momentum later in the second, culminating in Franzese’s first goal.
“It takes us a while to get cranked up,” said Jackson. “We have peaks and valleys, and one line sets the tempo for the next. Our second and third shifts (of the period) we really get things going.”
Danvers sophomore goalie Alex Taylor (19 saves) made some tremendous stops, chief among them a stick save on Kyle Koopman on which the goalie reached back across his crease to block the net. He also stopped junior wing Tom Koopman on a breakaway with a poke-check.
Young, a junior who is unbeaten on the season at 5-0, was also solid in the Marblehead cage — especially so on a kick-saved Merry bid at the end of the second.
“He and Myles Barry are battling and pushing each other in practice. This was one of Harrison’s real tests (in terms of the opponent) and he did a good job,” said Jackson.
“For us, we want to keep building. The season is a house and this is our foundation. Right now we’re still laying bricks in that foundation to make it strong going forward.”