PEMBROKE, Mass. – Each of the last three seasons has ended with the same result in the Atlantic Coast League, with Marshfield as the champion, and Falmouth in second place.
The Rams took a big step towards extending that streak to four years in a row tonight at the Hobomock Arena. Thanks in large part to a three-goal outburst over a span of just three minutes and 31 seconds in the first period, No. 12 Marshfield toppled Falmouth by a 5-2 score.
The Rams improve to 6-3 overall, and are a perfect 5-0-0 in the ACL. Falmouth falls to and 2-2-0 in the league.
After a five minute feeling out period, in which neither team was able to put a shot on the opposing goalie, the Rams found a groove and scored on three of their first four shots against Clippers senior keeper Jake Beaton to set the tone for the day. Bookend strikes from David Cataldo around one from Colin MacDonald gave the Rams command for the rest of the day and gave a bit of breathing room for a defense that missing two of their top four blue liners.
Falmouth cut into the lead with a fortunate bounce of the puck early in the third period, but the Rams' Will Cole put the game away for good late in the third period when he popped a rebound of a Jeff Nagle shot past Beaton. Marshfield scored again early in the third, on a deflection off a Falmouth defenseman. Robbie Souza's second of the game, and 13th of the season, rounded things out for the Clippers late in the contest.
Marshfield head coach Dan Connolly said that his team's goal was to set the tempo early against a team that they know is always going to be one of their main contenders for the coveted league championship. Their first period flurry, he thought, went a long way towards picking up the two points in the standings.
“It's always a big league rivalry and the key was getting out early on them,” he said. “Our kids buzzed the net and it was good for us because in the last game, against Sandwich, we sort of started slow and then came on strong. Today I thought we started strong, and then in the second period, I thought they took it to us for a bit, but we finished well.”
Cataldo's first one was the result of a good shift by the senior forward. He flung a shot on net from the left side that Beaton stopped, but lost sight of. The Ram charged to the front and dug the loose puck out and popped it past the Falmouth netminder to put his team on the board at 4:59.
Before the public address announcer had finished reading off the night's first score, Marshfield added its second on a bang-bang play out of the left wing corner again. This time Sam Bartlett got the puck to the net where Cole snapped it in high to make it 2-0 at 7:05.
Cataldo, finished the night with a hat trick, reached the two-thirds mark of the cap tossing-worthy feat at 9:30 with a superb individual effort, again out of the left wing corner. The senior tip-toed his way along the goal line and lifted a quick wrister between Beaton and the pipe into a window that you couldn't fit a water bottle through. That finished off a supremely efficient first 15 minutes for the Rams, who scored on three of the six shots that they were able to get on net.
If Cataldo owned the first two periods the Rams, then senior goaltender Connor Lemieux could certainly say he had the pink slip on the latter two. The goalie halted 18 of the 20 shots in the game that were put on net by Falmouth, and 18 of the 19 that he saw, which did not include the first of Souza's two on the night as the Clippers' senior captain looked to center the puck from behind the net at 3:23 of the second, only to have his intended feed to the front ricochet off of Lemieux's equipment and bounce into the goal, getting the Clippers onto the board and into the game, at 3-1.
Falmouth had chances to tighten things up from that point on, but Lemieux prevented that from happening. He stopped a number of quality Clippers chances the rest of the way, including a nice body-up of a Cam Tobey bomb from the high slot late in the second and, most impressively, consecutive left leg pad flashes that robbed Tobey and then Cody Bailey.
“He made some really big saves for us tonight, especially right there where he went left pad, left pad,” Connolly said.
Later in the period Lemieux also stopped a 4-on-4 breakaway by Zack Barrett, sliding left-to-right to take away the prime scoring chance.
Cataldo finished off his hat trick, with a little help from the Clippers, midway through the third. The forward was attempting to wrist one from the left wing dot towards the net. One of the Clippers defensemen dove at the puck to block it, but instead changed the wrist shot's flight as it knuckled over Beatons' glove into the net.
Souza added the last goal of the night for the Clippers with 1:04 left on the clock. After having a breakaway fall apart, he spun off the ice and snapped one inside the near post to make it 5-2.
“I was proud of our effort. We spotted them two of the first three [goals] on a platter, and you can't do that against a good team, but I was proud of our effort for 45 minutes,” Falmouth head coach Paul Moore said. “I'd like a different result, but I thought we played well.”
Now the Rams have a chance to really secure themselves as the league front-runners on Wednesday night. The red hot and upset-minded Plymouth South Panthers (6-0-1, 2-0-1) come to town fresh off their own win over Falmouth, 3-0 last Wednesday, and would like nothing more than to vault past the perennial league champs.
South head coach Mike McCosh was in the house to scout the Rams on Saturday, with his club enjoying a bye over the weekend.
“South's a really good club and that's going to be a good match-up between us and them,” Connnolly said. “We're hoping to keep the momentum going.”