If John Blake could have his Duxbury boys’ hockey team known for one trait, it is that they are disciplined. Early in the season, however, his Dragons were anything but.
Winless on the year, the Dragons felt confident heading into the final period of play against Xaverian on Dec. 28, though they trailed on the scoreboard, 3-1. But a pair of undisciplined penalties led to a pair of Xaverian power-play goals, as the Hawks left The Bog in Kingston with a 5-1 victory.
“I thought it was a great learning experience for our guys,” Blake said. “We learned that if we are undisciplined and we take bad penalties, good teams like Xaverian are going to make you pay.
“We decided [from that point] we would commit to being a disciplined team.”
As the end of the regular season inches closer, that commitment has had a profound impact on the Dragons. After starting the season 0-1-3, Duxbury has ripped off 10 consecutive wins, outscoring opponents by a 45-8 margin as the team has been thrust back into the conversation for best public school hockey team in the state.
“We were in those first couple of games there,” said Blake. “We felt like we were playing some pretty strong opponents — teams like Norwood, Barnstable, Scituate, Xaverian.
“We just wanted to stay the course. We wanted to keep working at it. We wanted to come to work every day and try to become a better team – that’s kind of our motto and that’s kind of our goal.”
The streak began simply enough: a 4-1 win over Westwood before consecutive shutouts over North Quincy and Hanover. The streak grew to three, then four, then five.
Game Six was a telling one for Blake and his players, as the Dragons staved off a talented Marshfield team, clinching the fifth annual Coaches vs. Cancer Green Cup with a 3-2 win over the Rams.
A week later and the streak now at seven, Duxbury’s other captain, Matt Murphy, scored the tying and eventual winning goals to complete his hat trick as the Dragons defeated their rivals from Hingham, 5-3.
“I think what happened after beating Marshfield and after beating Hingham, we got a sense that we could compete with anybody, and that’s a compliment,” Blake said. “We have a ton of respect for a program like Marshfield and a program like Hingham. They’re some of the best public high school programs in the state year-in and year-out, and we wanted to gain some respect, too.
“We knew we had to beat a Marshfield, we knew we had to beat a Hingham to get that respect.”
Led by a core group of 10 seniors, the Dragons have quickly reclaimed that sense of respect as they charge towards the playoffs. Now with 14 games under its belt, the Duxbury defense has finally gelled together as the defensive corps has become acclimated with its new netminder.
Having never played a minute of varsity hockey, goaltender Tucker Kelly claimed the starting job in the preseason and has been a rock for the Dragons. The senior has a 1.50 goals-against average, and has allowed only eight goals in the past 10 games, including five shutouts.
“He’s another kid who we’ve seen get better and better, more confident and more confident, as he’s gone along,” Blake said. “But to just mention Tucker and not mention our defense would be a shame because the defense has done a tremendous job.”
On offense, Blake rolls out three deep lines, each being as talented as the last. The “Green Line” is his veteran line, carrying three of his team’s four captains in Trevor O’Brien (10-3—13), Nick Marrocco (5-10—15), and Mike Doyle (2-9—11).
A 3-0 shutout of Whitman-Hanson this past Saturday pushed the Dragons to 7-0-1 in league play and gave Duxbury another Patriot Keenan title – its third league crown since joining the league three years ago, but Blake’s group has higher aspirations.
The Dragons won the Div. 1 state title in 2007 and earned a berth in the Super 8 in 2006. Should they continue their recent string of success, the Dragons could have a chance at making a run in either tournament.
Blake hears the talk, and so do his players, but they refuse to indulge in speculation.
“As the polls come out and we’re in a lot of conversations, we’ve told the kids that no question the bull’s eye [on our back] is getting bigger and bigger,” Blake said. “Every opponent is going to be chomping at the bit. It’s going to be every opponent’s Super Bowl the rest of the way. If we have any type of mental lapse or lack of focus, it’s going to cost us.
“We are aware of where we’re at. We are aware that there is a bull’s eye on our back, and we’re just going one game at a time and staying focused.”
Too much of a good thing
Though his team fell to national powerhouse Delbarton (N.J.), 3-0, Catholic Memorial coach Bill Hanson had nothing but fond things to say about the experience, the fans, and the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.
What did irk Hanson, however, were the extreme security measures in place at the NHL-sanctioned event.
“The game itself was great,” said the longtime coach of the Knights. “The venue was great, the amount of fan support from the CM people who were down there — along with the Delbarton people — and the game itself, it was a great atmosphere.
“It was what happened outside of the game – not on the rink, and not on the field – that was just brutal, and that was the security that we had to go through, the red tape, because it was actually being run by the NHL.”
Some of the safety measures included drug-sniffing dogs that had to clear each player’s bag before they could enter the stadium. Once the game concluded family members were restricted from visiting athletes until they had exited the locker room area, unlike when the Knights played BC High at Fenway Park in 2012.
“I’d have to be a lawyer with 10 law degrees to explain some of the stuff we had to deal with,” Hanson said.
Donato, Filipe make college plans
Two of the area’s most promising hockey players made college commitments this past week as Scituate’s Ryan Donato (Dexter) and Lynnfield’s Matt Filipe (Malden Catholic) announced their verbal commitments to Harvard and Northeastern, respectively.
A senior at Dexter, Donato was ranked 54th among North American skaters in the NHL’s Midterm Draft Prospect Rankings. The son of former Boston Bruin and current Harvard men’s hockey head coach Ted Donato, Ryan led all prep school scorers with 29 goals and 60 points in 28 games as a junior.
Filipe, a talented sophomore for the second-ranked Lancers, has family ties to Northeastern. His father, Paul, played four seasons for the Huskies from 1978-1982 and helped guide the Huskies to their first ECAC championship, first NCAA tournament appearance, and first Frozen Four berth as a senior before embarking on a one-year professional career with the Boston Bruins. One of the freshmen on his Frozen Four team was current Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan.
Filipe is the third player on the Malden Catholic roster to commit to a Hockey East program, joining senior forward Tyler Sifferlen (UMass-Lowell commit) and junior forward Ara Nazarian (New Hampshire).
The 22d Ed Cahoon Memorial Tournament will be held at the Burlington Ice Palace Feb. 18 and 20. Cahoon won 217 games during his coaching career at Burlington. First round matchups have Medford playing Framingham at 5:15 p.m. followed by Chelmsford facing Burlington at 7:15. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for students.
Carpenter, Price suspended
Tempers boiled over during Saturday’s matchup between Catholic Central rivals Austin Prep and St. Mary’s of Lynn. Early in the third period with the Spartans clinging to a 3-1 lead, AP’s Bobo Carpenter, a Boston University commit, and St. Mary’s defenseman Chris Price dropped the gloves and went at each other. The two players were ejected from the game and, by rule, will miss each of their team’s next two contests.
Panthers clinch the NEC
Beverly (15-0-1) clinched its second Northeastern Conference title in as many years with a 3-1 win over Winthrop Saturday night. The last time the Panthers won back-to-back league titles was 1988-1989 and 1989-1990.
Games of the Week
No. 1 BC High vs No. 4 Catholic Memorial, Monday, 4 p.m. — When CM received the invite to play at Yankee Stadium, this one was pushed to Monday at BC’s Conte Forum. The top two teams in the Catholic Conference square off for the first time this season as the Knights look to end BC High’s unbeaten streak. Both teams can score goals, but this game will be about sterling sophomore netminders in BC High’s Brandon Payzant (1.25 GAA) and the Knights’ Brandon Collett (1.60 GAA).
No. 3 Austin Prep at No. 8 Central Catholic, Monday, 5:30 p.m. – The Cougars will be without the services of its star offensive threat in Bobo Carpenter, but junior Elijah Harris (1.84 GAA) will still be in net for Austin Prep as it looks to quell the high-scoring Central Catholic line of Lloyd Hayes (8-18-26), Alex Lester (12-11-23), and Corey Webber (6-15-21).
Medway at Medfield, Wednesday, 5 p.m.—This game is a case of two league rivals that score a lot of goals but don’t allow many on the other end. Medway leads the way with 45 goals scored and only 11 goals allowed in Tri-Valley league play, but they will have to bring their A-game to deal with senior Pat Lawler (10-13-23) Medfield’s talented sophomore duo of Matt Treiber (10-12-22) and John MacLean (9-10-19).
No. 18 Watertown at No. 10 Burlington, Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. – The Raiders have been a revelation this season, and as of Sunday sit atop a competitive Middlesex Freedom. To keep their improbable drive to the league title alive, Watertown will have to take on the two-time defending Division 1 champions on their home ice. Junior Anthony Busconi could be the difference-maker.
No. 16 Marshfield at Plymouth South, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. – The Rams dropped their first Atlantic coast game to a surging Falmouth team on Saturday and now find themselves with only a one-game lead for the ACL crown. Lurking a game and a half back, the Panthers will be looking to enact some revenge on the Rams, who took a 5-3 decision over Plymouth South three weeks ago.
No. 1 BC High at No. 2 Malden Catholic, Saturday, 1 p.m. – It was the Eagles who stole the No. 1 ranking from the three-time Super 8 champion Lancers nearly a month ago. Chances are Malden Catholic has had this game circled on its calendar for some time.