Walpole, MA - The first half of our season started off on the wrong foot and probably the biggest factor for the tough start was our work ethic. You can have all the skill in the world but if you’re showing up to the rink whether it’s a practice or game and you’re not putting in your best effort, then that can only take you so far. We lacked that effort, we were going through the motions and not playing with any confidence and that really showed in our game results.
However since the first week of December, we have become a different team. We have really re-evaluated ourselves starting with the coach’s right down the list. It’s almost like we are a new team and we show up to the rink knowing that we can play with any team out there and we aren’t afraid of anybody. Every loss hurts still but not as bad as the beginning of the season, because these kids leave everything on the ice, playing like every shift is their last.
This past weekend the hard work really paid off when we won the Challenge Cup in Marlborough. I can speak for both Coaches Bob Delmore and Paul Sherman when I say that it was one of the best experiences hockey wise that we’ve been a part in a long time.
The kids showed up to play this past weekend and left everything they had on the ice and if I had to pick a tournament MVP, I would have picked our goalie John O’Brien. He was tremendous between the pipes and was a brick wall only giving up four goals the entire tournament. I personally think that every team should be built around Defenseman and our D-core played nothing short of spectacular. Patrick Gong who I think is one of the best defenseman in our league played lights out with his twin brother William who has been playing his best hockey all season. Cam Delmore, Rex Blakely, Nick Wong, and Kyle Turner have been the backbone of our D-Core making zero mistakes on the ice. My college coach used to say that the best Defenseman are the ones that you don’t notice, because they aren’t making mistakes out there and I can definitely say that those four have been playing to their best of their abilities and mistake free.
The work ethic is a huge factor in regards to our season turn-a-round but Ethan Guo, (who was added mid-season) has a huge part in this. He can skate with any player in the league and works extremely hard on and off the ice and he had a dramatic over time winner in the semifinals. Cam Sherman, one of his line mates, is in my opinion one of our best two way forwards. The whole play on the ice starts in the D-Zone and Cam does all the right things defensively. The other forward on that line is Sean Moriarty, who is similar to Ethan and can skate with anyone in our league. Sean played the first half of our season as a defenseman and has since transitioned to a forward, and this has been one of the best moves our coaches have made. Sean can put the puck in the net almost every time he touches the puck and goal scoring is something that can’t be taught, you either have it or you don’t.
Our second line is led by Matthew Stockbridge at center, James O’brien who was our leading goal scorer up until the tournament, and Patrick Connelly who is easily our best defensive forward. These three in particular have made tremendous strides the second half of our season. They do all the little things right in the D-zone and work extremely hard in practice. They had some really huge shifts for us in the semi-finals and championship game that were huge momentum swing shifts. The really close one-goal games are usually dictated by momentum, and there were a few instances where we started going through the motions, and this line picked us up big time with their relentless fore-checking.
Our third and final line was easily the best line in the whole tournament on any team led by center Bernard Lessard and his wings Brett Jussaume and Chris Larkin. Bernie is without any question our hardest working forward and these types of forwards are essential to every team. Bernie is first in every conditioning drill and a true leader on this team. His hard work is a great fit for his two line mates who both had unforgettable tournaments. Brett Jussaume is our most improved player so far this season and I don’t think anybody would disagree. Brett has been really lighting the lamp with numerous multiple goal games including his first career hat trick against West Haven Yellow Jackets. One of the major reasons in his significant improvement on the ice is his confidence with the puck. He’s looking to put the puck in the back of the net every single shift and has a really bright future along with his other line mate Chris Larkin. Chris is a solid player and sees the ice better than anybody. He can stick handle in a phone booth and is one of our top two way forwards with great back checking abilities. Chris had his biggest goal of his young career notching the double OT winning goal in the championship game against the Connecticut Stars. It’s a goal I’ll never forget and I’m sure it’s one he will never forget.
This past weekend was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a coach and seeing these kids work extremely hard and having a lot of fun is why I love coaching. These kids have made tremendous strides throughout the season and it’s really showing. The coaches knew it was going to be tough moving up a division but if we keep playing like we are now, then the rest of the season should be exciting and it all starts with the work ethic these kids put forward.
Coach Brendan Craig