Last week, after Norwood had defeated Arlington for the Eastern Mass. hockey championship, the Norwood School Committee took an optimistic look into the future.
Monday night, March 20, would be the state final against the Western Mass. Division One champ. It would be duck soup, so the school committee called off school (anticipating a day of celebration) for the 21st.
“There were five parties planned even before tonight’s game,” said Norwood center Mike Martin last night. “All last week, after we beat Arlington, people were telling us there was no way we’d lose the state final.”
So underdog St. John’s of Shrewsbury, loser of four games and fourth-place finisher in the Wachusett League, came into Boston Garden last night to play Norwood for the title, Norwood, winner of 22 games, loser of none.
Until the nine-minute mark of the third period, it was a 1-1 hockey game. It was already a moral victory for St. John’s, and the Garden crowd was wondering if it would become a real one, too.
But it was Martin, picked last week to the Globe’s All-Scholastic squad, who came to the rescue. Early in the third period. Mike had fallen behind the St. John’s net and his shoulder popped. It popped right back into place, though. Halfway through the period, with the score still tied, Norwood defenseman Pete Brown drilled a slap shot toward the St. John’s goalie. It hit Martin instead — right in the belly.
Aching shoulder, sore stomach and all, Martin found himself in front of St, John’s goalie Jim Stuart with three minutes to play. Linemate Bill Clifford was in the traffic jam behind the net. He dug the puck out to Martin. A snap of the wrist and Norwood was ahead to stay, 2-1. Just over a minute later, Martin fed Ed King on a two-on-one break, and King iced the game, with a shot over sophomore Stuart’s shoulder.
The state championship, the day off from school, and the victory parties were earned by Norwood.
“We just came out fired up in the third period,” said winning coach Don Wheeler, “St. John’s had played hard, aggressive, intimidating hockey. We got madder as the game went on — perhaps a little of the anger was towards ourselves.”
But Martin lifted his team into its first state championship and ended a supreme effort by St. John’s. Goalie Stuart and his teammates had played the game of their lives. The coach, Brother Xavier Briscoe, took over the job six weeks ago, with little experience behind the bench.
But they had given Norwood a fight.
By Marvin Pave. Globe Staff
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