By Phil Stacey
PEABODY — Third line right winger Brian Corcoran is not the biggest or fastest player on the Bishop Fenwick hockey team. He doesn’t lead the team in goals, doesn’t eat up the most ice time or block more shots than anyone else.
What he does have, though, is the complete and total support of all his Crusader teammates.
“I love him to death. I’d do anything for Brian,” Fenwick assistant captain Drew Thibodeau said, after his two goals helped Fenwick to its third victory of the season, a 3-2 triumph over Saugus at the McVann-O’Keefe Rink last night.
For the second straight game, many of the Fenwick players wore pink skate laces and taped their sticks and/or socks with pink tape. It was all a show of support for Corcoran, a junior from Beverly whose mother Mary underwent breast cancer surgery last Friday and was in attendance at last night’s win.
Not only did the players get into the act, but so did Fenwick’s cheerleaders, who wore pink bows in their hair, while many of the other Crusader parents sported pink scarves or other items of clothing.
“Brian’s got the heart of a champion,” continued Thibodeau. “He’s playing with more fire than ever.”
Fenwick (3-10) head coach Dan Lynch, whose team snapped a five-game losing streak, was also acutely aware that his team was playing for more than just two points in the standings.
“Brian’s a real quality kid,” said Lynch, “and he does everything we ask without saying a word. You can put him in any situation and he’ll leave everything he has out on the ice. Our prayers are with his mom.”
Using that inspiration, the Crusaders twice fought back from one-goal deficits, then got the eventual game-winner off the stick of Thibodeau late in the second period. From there, junior goaltender Pat O’Leary — who has played every minute of Fenwick’s 13 games this season — stepped up his game, stopping a dozen shots in the final stanza to preserve the win.
For a team that is still getting used to the speed and talent level at Division 1, this victory against a Division 2 foe was one to savor. True, Fenwick didn’t play a complete three periods of hockey and suffered some lapses in play, but they stayed out of the penalty box for the most part (something that’s hurt them this season) and made the plays when it mattered most.
“It was a big game for us; we needed this win,” said O’Leary, a junior from Wenham who finished with 26 saves. “It was good to get it for Brian’s mom, too.”
Thibodeau’s first goal, coming on the power play, knotted the game at 1-1 midway through the first. Assistant captain Jake Brennan gained the zone and left a drop pass for Thibodeau, and the 18-year-old from Peabody bore in on goal and snuck the puck under goaltender Anthony Allan’s stick-side arm.
After Saugus retook the lead at 2-1 early in the second, Fenwick again came back, this time a minute-and-a-half later. Talented Nick Finan, a junior from Salem, followed up his own shot by firing a backhand high to the far post for the equalizer. Thibodeau’s fourth goal of the season won the game a little over eight minutes later as he converted a Mike Napolitano pass.
“When you’re struggling, you have to find ways to win and we did that tonight,” said Lynch.
Captain P.J. Usalis, a defenseman playing with eight stitches in his hand after having it skated over against St. Mary’s of Lynn two weeks ago, had a strong game on the blue line, as did Brennan. The top line of Thibodeau, Finan and Napolitano created most of Fenwick’s scoring opportunities, while freshmen such as Mike Gallant (back from a broken shoulder) and Chris Napolitano showed promise.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to finally help Pat and get him a win. He deserves that support from us,,” said Thibodeau.
Phil Stacey is the sports editor of The Salem News. Contact him at email@example.com or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.