By Phil Stacey
---- — SALEM — Mike Disciullo gained valuable experience playing a regular shift on defense as a freshman last winter, but knew he’d be asked to step up his game considerably this season.
So the Danvers High blue liner put in the required work in the offseason — and the results are showing themselves, both on and off the ice.
“I knew I’d be playing a bigger role and that I had to get stronger this year. I feel like I’ve been able to do that,” said Disciullo, who had one of his team’s four third period goals Saturday as the Falcons doubled up a talented Marblehead squad, 4-2, Saturday afternoon at the Rockett Arena.
Physically bigger and stronger than he was at this time last year, Disciullo’s first varsity goal was a beauty. With the game tied at 1-1 and half a period to play, he pinched into the Marblehead zone and had a golden scoring chance denied in the crease by a spectacular Myles Barry (22 saves) pad stop.
But Disciullo didn’t give up on the play. After a scramble out front, the puck popped back out to him in the slot and this time he connected, giving the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
“The goal was great, but honestly it’s even better to win a game like this,” said the 15-year-old sophomore, who also plays on Danvers’ top power play and penalty killing units. “I knew we had to get on the board there and it’s up to me to step it up. So when I saw my chance (offensively), I took it.”
“You’ve got to take aggressive chances at times, and that was one of those times,” echoed Danvers head coach Kevin Brown of Discillo’s goal. “Mike may be a sophomore, but he doesn’t play like one; he’s a guy we’ll rely on all season. He’s good on his skates, has good balance and is smart with the puck. We want guys like that taking those aggressive chances.”
Junior Tommy Koopman tied it up for Marblehead with 2:54 to play after curling off the far wall and scoring 5-hole on Danvers sophomore Adam Taylor. One of his freshman twin brothers, second line center Matt Koopman, earned his first varsity point with an assist on the play (as did Cam Rowe).
But Danvers wasn’t finished. Captain Joe Strangie set up shop in front of Barry, took a slick behind-the-crease feed from A.J. Couto (2 goals, assist) and one-timed the puck home with 1:06 remaining for the game-winning goal.
“We came unraveled a bit in the third period,” admitted Marblehead head coach Bobby Jackson after his team dropped its season opener. “The things we talked about in the preseason came back to haunt us — especially being undisciplined in our defensive end, which is uncommon for us.
“Give Danvers credit; they go hard for 45 minutes and will never change that philosophy. Plus, this was the first time (including the preseason) we played against an offense that sustained a lot of shots. What we need to do defensively is talk; you can’t play this game quiet. You have to be constantly communicating on the ice.”
Honing his game by skating for the Valley Jr. Warriors and working out at Impact Athletics in Danvers during the offseason, Disciullo said time-wide stamina and fitness paid off handsomely in the third period Saturday.
“We knew what we had to do between (the 2nd and 3rd) periods,” he said. “The game was in our hands; we just had to do our thing and keep going. I know I felt stronger as the game went on.”
Senior Joe Newall of the Headers had the game’s only goal through two periods, taking a feed from junior linemates Dean Fader and Erik Powers and burying a shot 5-hole from down the right wing boards midway through the second period. Danvers tied it early in the second on the first of Couto’s two scores; he also scored the final goal of the contest on an empty netter with 26 seconds remaining.
Starting his second straight game in goal, Taylor finished with 20 saves for the Falcons.