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No. 7 Hingham takes step forward in St. Mary's test

HINGHAM, Mass. -- If the Hingham boys’ hockey team is to make another run at a Super Eight title when the 2010-11 season is said and done, you can go ahead and circle Feb. 5 as the date the Harbormen turned things around.

Coming into Saturday’s matchup at Pilgrim Skating Arena against No. 4 St. Mary’s of Lynn, Hingham was trying to regain measure of momentum. Ever since their upset of Malden Catholic on Jan. 15, the seventh-ranked Harbormen had hit a rough patch, going 0-3-1 in their last four contests.

Again, Hingham fell behind against St. Mary’s and, despite battling back twice to tie the game, trailed with less than five minutes remaining. That’s when they regained their scoring touch, tying the score once again on Ryan Linehan’s power play strike, then potting the game-winner with 49 seconds to go on Alex Pompeo’s wrister, his second of the game. Tim Driscoll’s empty-net, short-handed goal iced it, giving a Hingham an emotional 5-3 win.

“This was a huge game for us,” said Pompeo, a senior defenseman and team co-captain. “We’ve been in a little bit of a slump and they’re definitely a Super Eight team, or close to it. This was just absolutely huge for us.”

Hingham (7-4-4) stopped their skid with a little help from their power play unit. The Harbormen took advantage on three of seven man-advantage situations.

“We’d been struggling on the power play lately and we’ve been struggling all season to score goal,” Hingham head coach Tony Messina said. “Every game’s been a grind.”

Their latest battle was no different as St. Mary’s (9-2-3), which returned to game action after a 10-day layoff, pressed play in the first period. Bobby Mullins picked up where he left off, tallying his 12th goal of the season with 7:11 remaining in the first. Hingham tied the game 7:21 into the second period with their first of three power play goals on Matt Hughes’ wraparound.

The score remained knotted at 1-1 until a wild third period.

The Spartans regained the lead on Cam Kennedy’s slapper through a screen with 7:20 remaining. Pompeo drew the Harbormen even once again on a goal assisted by Steve Bellew and Linehan via a 5-on-3 power play chance with 5:07 left.

Once again, St. Mary’s forged ahead with Tommy Braswell’s goal off an offensive zone face-off win by Christopher Surrette with the teams playing 4-on-4. Linehan tied the game, 3-3, while falling backward and depositing the rebound from Hughes’ wrist shot.

Pompeo tallied the game-winner with 49.4 seconds on the clock with assists from Bellew and Linehan.

Predictably, the Spartans didn’t go quietly with several quality chances in the waning seconds. With goaltender Donald Hesse pulled, St. Mary’s was playing 6-on-4 with an attack zone face off after a Hingham player was sent to the box with 10 seconds remaining. The draw came to the left of Harbormen netminder Kevin Granatino (who also stopped a St. Mary's penalty shot try by Connor Parent in the second) with Driscoll inside the circle. Messina entrusted the winger to take the face off, citing his strong hands. The senior co-captain and Holy Cross commit won the draw cleanly, lofting the puck on the backhand toward the vacated St. Mary’s goal. The puck trickled past the goal line with 4.3 to go.

Then and only then could the Harbormen celebrate an important victory.

“This type of game, coming from behind, even though they were power plays goals, it’s got to give them some confidence,” Messina said. “We’ve been trying to find something to grab onto while we’ve been struggling.”

He continued: “To come out and pull out a win in this situation, maybe that’s something we can build upon going down the road, at least I hope so.”

With power plays a factor (the Spartans were 0-for-4 on their chances), St. Mary’s head coach Mark Lee said it was only a matter of time before the Harbormen took off.

“What hurt us today was taking some penalties, you can’t beat a team like that short-handed. We just took a couple too many, especially at the end of the game.

“The odds are against you, they’re bound to score in those situations.”

Or maybe luck had finally just swung Hingham’s way.

“We haven’t had in the longest time,” Messina said, “but you also make your own luck in this game. We tell the kids that you’ve got to take and off-angle shot, you’ve got to look for rebounds, tough goals. We like dirty goals as much as the pretty ones, but we hadn’t been getting either. Today we did.”