Sun, Mar 02, 2008
02:30 PM @
Neutral Location - O'Keef Center; Salem State College
Hat-trick Holmes the hero with miraculous game-winner
Monday, March, 03
By John Shimer
When the tournament pairings came out, the potential spectacle of a rematch between Newburyport and Gloucester in the second round had the makings of a classic.
After all, Newburyport entered the Division 2 North tournament with an eight-game winning streak, and Gloucester was the team with the recent state championship success (2006 state title).
In front of the standing-room-only, raucous crowd at Salem State's Rockett Rink the Clippers and Fishermen played an epic game, the likes of which those in attendance will be talking about for years to come.
The teams matched each other goal for goal with neither side gaining more than a goal advantage the entire way. The game looked to be headed to overtime after Gloucester's goalie Bradley Robertson made what at the time seemed to be the game-saving save, going into a split to push the puck away on Kyle McElroy's shot after Kevin Holmes had found him wide open in front of the net with 19 seconds remaining in the game.
However, off the ensuing face-off 10 seconds later the puck went squirming fortuitously high into the air only to find Holmes, who was standing 10 feet away from goal. The junior Clipper's hand-eye coordination was pin-point and he smashed the puck like a baseball flying into goal for the unbelievable game-winner.
The goal | which completed Holmes' hat-trick | was made all the more remarkable by the facts that the Clippers' battled back twice from deficits in the third period, and that once again Newburyport won the final period | 3-2 | to edge out Gloucester for the win.
"These guys just never quit, even when we went down late I just had a feeling we would come back because they always just keep plugging away," said the exuberant Newburyport coach Paul Yameen. "If you look at our past 10 games or so, I can't remember a game we lost the third period. We just wear on teams."
In what had already been a high-intesity, end-to-end, big-hitting, action-packed game the third period began in a defensive stalemate as neither team could assert possession in either team's end.
The momentum turned though after the Freeman brothers picked up consecutive cross-checking penalties, first Derek and then David on what was an absolutely bone-crunching hit, sending oohs and aws throughout the crowd. On the second power play Gloucester was able to take advantage on what was an unlucky bounce off a clearance attempt from the Clippers in their defensive zone as the puck went to Paul Russo, who then found an open Connor Ressel for the easy finish, and a 4-3 Fishermen lead.
Looking a bit gassed after trying to kill off two consecutive power plays the Clippers iced the puck twice to catch their breath. However, a minute and a half after the Gloucester goal, Newburyport would level the score when Collin Cusack found Kevin Holmes for a good look from the right side. Holmes' attempt was blocked, and the puck trickled out 15 feet from the net to the wide open McElroy, who unloaded an Al MacInnis-like slapper that gave Robertson no chance before it blistered the back of net to tie the score at four.
"I was really caught up in the moment, and I didn't know what to with the puck," described McElroy of the sequence of events right before his big score. "So, I just slapped at it and got lucky."
Two minutes later the puck bounced just the right way for Gloucester again, ricocheting off the boards in front of the Newburyport bench and finding Brett Biondo open for a shot. With three bodies laid out and blocking the Clipper goalie Anthony Federico's view, the freshmen never saw the shot before it put Gloucester on top again, 5-4.
"That goal was a little disheartening, they (Gloucester) saw two bounces like that tonight, but I don't think it fazed my guys at all," said Yameen of the fluky goal. "In fact, it might've fazed the coaching staff more than the players because I don't even think they saw the bounce."
Like the game had gone all night with neither team holding the lead for long, the Clippers tied the score 45 seconds later thanks to their inspirational captain Derek McCoy, who buried his shot off a great pass from Derek Freeman in the left corner.
"From the beginning, everyone really wanted this game to play Gloucester again, and even if we went down we knew we would fight to the last second," said McCoy following the game. "I've never been a part of a team like this where everyone always gets after it, and it's been like that throughout the season."
And thanks to the last goal heading in with exactly nine seconds remaining in the game, Newburyport did not leave Gloucester enough time to answer for a potential overtime. Had there been another 60 seconds, that's almost undoubtedly where the game would have gone.