GLOUCESTER — Late in the first period of Monday’s boys hockey clash between Rockport and Swampscott, the Vikings were reeling a bit as the visitors continued to pepper shots on target. Despite being undermanned, the Big Blue were playing fast and hungry as they looked to build an early lead.
Then all of a sudden, something clicked for Rockport. Skating on the power play, Ryan Meaney got the party started with a quick wrister from the left wing that found the back of the net, top shelf. Seven seconds later, Hudson Wood scored his first of two goals immediately off the ensuing faceoff to put the Vikings up by two in the blink of an eye.
Those quick goals in succession, both coming in the final minute of the frame, gave Rockport the necessary momentum moving forward as they ultimately secured a 4-2 victory at Talbot Rink.
“Those were big,” Rockport head coach Garrett Stevens said of the two first period scores. Meaney’s game opening goal was assisted by Ryan Dolaher and Evan Haughey, who swung the puck around up top before Meaney ripped it home. Wood’s goal swiftly after was unassisted.
“We haven’t had the best puck luck so it’s big for these guys to get that weight off their shoulders and go into the end of the first with a lead,” continued Stevens. “We took our foot off the gas a little bit in the second but came back in the third. That was a gutsy win; proud of the guys.”
With the win, Rockport moved to 4-7 on the season — and they earned every bit of it.
As Stevens alluded to, the Vikings came out a tad sluggish in the second period with Swampscott (now 3-5-2) once again generating the better opportunities at goal. It finally paid off with 1:45 left in the frame as Beau Olivieri let loose on a powerful wrister that found the back of the cage.
By the time the horn sounded at the end of two, it was anybody’s game with Rockport ahead 2-1 but Swampscott holding a somewhat significant 21-14 edge in shots on goal.
But like they did in the first, the Vikings once again came up with two consecutive goals in the third to seal the deal. The first came with just under 10 minutes to play as Wood blasted home a one timer in front of the net. The puck had ricocheted to his stick from behind the cage and he made no mistake, powering it home without hesitation.
Wood is now up to six goals and two assists on the year in 11 games played.
“All season he’s been up there for points and I think he’s now tied with Quinn Brady for goals for us,” said Stevens. “That first one he scored was the second one this season that he’s just on the forecheck picking off the pass and going in 1-on-0. So he’s been buzzing on the ice, and as a sophomore the sky is the limit for him.”
Charlie Collins followed suit less than 30 seconds later. The senior winger found himself on a breakaway after a textbook outlet pass and beat Swampscott goalie Dom Pappalardo (18 saves) with a quick decision.
The Big Blue would get one back with around six minutes remaining, that one courtesy of Greg Balchenkoff (assist to Jason Rothwell) on a deep, well struck shot from the left wing. But at that point it proved too little too late for a Swampscott team that was down one of their best players and already has a thin bench to begin with.
“I loved our fight. We’re down a key player, Derek Faia, who was injured last game and we run a short bench to begin with only skating 10 guys,” explained Swampscott coach Gino Faia. “So we had to kind of move guys to different positions but I thought they stepped up. A couple turnovers killed us, but love the effort, love the fight.”
Faia highlighted the play of junior Joey Pilotte, who stepped away from his normal forward position to fill in on defense.
“He played a big game for us tonight stepping in and filling a role where he’s usually not given those minutes,” said Faia.
On the other side, Rockport also got strong performances out of Aidan Clarke and Quinn Brady, as well as goalie Cooper Miller, who came up with 27 saves in the win. The Vikings have now split the season series against Swampscott after falling to the Big Blue 2-1 earlier in the season.
“Cooper was great (today). He made some critical saves when we needed them,” added Stevens. “I thought with only 14 guys playing Swampscott was right there though and may have run out of gas a bit at the end. I wouldn’t want to play them in the first round of the playoffs; they’re a good team.”
Rockport 4, Swampscott 2
at Dorothy Talbot Rink, Gloucester
First period: R, Ryan Meaney (Ryan Dolaher, Evan Haughey), 14:10; R, Hudson Wood (un), 14:17.
Second period: S, Beau Olivieri (un), 13:15.
Third Period: R, Wood (un), 6:11; R, Charlie Collins (Nick Nocella), 6:40; S, Greg Balchenkoff (Jason Rothwell), 9:01.
Saves: R, Cooper Miller 24; S, Dom Pappalardo 18