Norwood sits on Cloud Nine

THE WINNERS—Happy Norwood goal-scorers celebrate their victory over Arlington in finals of EMass hockey tournament. From left, William Denehy, Ed King, and Greg Walker whoop it up. (Frank O’Brien photo)

“We wanted it not just for ourselves, or because of what happened last year. We wanted it For Don Wheeler, maybe more than anything else.”

Ed King, with the Norwood High dressing room still bursting at the seams with emotion, tried to find the appropriate words. He had been a standout. His goal late in the Eastern Mass, final had beaten Arlington, 3-2.

The Boston Garden clock showed 2:41 left to play in the Division One showdown when King tipped in linemate Bill Clifford’s pass to sink Arlington. Yes, Arlington, the defending EMass champ, and the team that had beaten Norwood in three previous EMass finals, including a 3-0 job last season, was dead.

Now, the albatross had been discarded.

Wheeler, the Norwood coach, had been on the receiving end of all the Arlington losses, and like the rest of his team last night, was on Cloud Nine.

“We took the play to them right from the start,” said Wheeler. “We never let up. Even when we were down in the final minutes (2-1) I had this feeling inside that we’d still win.”

Norwood outshot Arlington, 44-10. But it trailed with less than five minutes to play. The Arlington jinx appeared very real indeed.

But just after Arlington had killed off a penalty, Norwood second liner Bill Denehy picked off a rebound near the Arlington net, and slapped it past goalie Chuck Cremens. The score was tied. Two minutes later, King was about to enter a winner’s world.

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Center Mike Martin started the play in the Arlington zone with a pass on the right wing to Clifford. Billy zipped the puck to Cremens’ right. King, the Bay State League’s leading scorer and MVP, was at the corner of the crease to deflect it home.

“That play always seemed to work in practice, but this was the first time it worked in a game,” said King. “I’m thrilled. My parents, my four sisters and one brother were in the stands (along with over 12,500 others). What a feeling. But I’m just as happy for Don. No coach ever gave more to his team.

“Don was very demanding all season. But he never asked for more than he gave to us himself. We all felt so close to him, and the victory is like a gift to Don from the team. He had lost so many before. This one makes up for all the losses.”

Wheeler was almost speechless at times. He kept muttering words like “great. . . wonderful,” but he was in another world. He has been Norwood’s coach for 10 seasons, and has been to the Garden finals five times. This was the first celebration and he was enjoying it.

“We beat one of Arlington’s best teams,” said Don. “Our second line did a great job (Greg Walker scored the first goal of the game). So did the first. So did everybody else.”

For a while, goalie Cremens looked like the spoiler.

“It was the greatest game Chuckie (41 saves) has ever played,” said losing coach Ed Burns. “Norwood was an inspired hockey team tonight. They outplayed us, but for a while in the third period, I thought we might steal the game. But they wanted it. . . wanted it too much.”

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The parade of cars from the Garden to Norwood swelled along the expressway, down to Rte. 95 and into the town. The 100th anniversary year of Norwood High would be remembered by the Kings, the Wheelers, and the victory-starved Norwood fans.

But there is still more to come — the state final on Monday. An anti-climax if there ever was one.

By Marvin Pave, Globe Staff

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