Redmen Hold Off Boston Latin to Punch Ticket to the Garden
LOWELL -- By any measure, it’s been a season of discovery for the Tewksbury High boys hockey team, one that has culminated in the stuff of dreams.
Tewksbury 6, Latin 4
Over the first half of the schedule, a young Tewksbury squad gained the physical and emotional maturity needed to play at a high-level. But there was no way of knowing just how high up the ladder of success this edition of the Redmen could climb come tourney time.
Well, Tewksbury took off once the puck dropped on the postseason and has continued to gain flight with each win. And now a Tewksbury club brimming with confidence is soaring into the TD Garden, one win away from running out of sky to conquer in its state championship quest.
Junior Kyle Morris and freshman Jason Cooke scored two goals each as Tewksbury captured the MIAA Division 2 North title with a 6-4 victory over Boston Latin at the Tsongas Center Monday night.
Senior Ben Bieren and junior Campbell Pierce potted one goal each for the Redmen, who avenged a pair of regular season losses to Boston Latin. Junior Patrick Letourneau made 26 saves while earning the victory in net.
Tewksbury (17-4-3) will play Canton (24-0-1) in the Division 2 state final Sunday at the TD Garden.
“It’s nice when you win a title like this with all young kids who are looking you in the face and just want to be playing hockey,” said Tewksbury coach Derek Doherty, who guided the Redmen to the 2011 Division 2 state championship. “There’s no drama. It’s just ‘coach, I want to play hockey. I love this.’ That’s what it’s all about.”
Over the second half the season, the Redmen have been close to unbeatable. Tewksbury heads into the state final on an 11-1-3 run, including four wins in the postseason.
“It’s great (to be in this position),” said Doherty. “The town is buzzing right now. It’s good for the town. It’s good for the people in town. You know hockey is big in Tewksbury, along with football. And you know it’s important that we do well.”
The Redmen have relied on a team-first approach to winning on their amazing skate to the Garden. Tewksbury has been getting contributions from all its lines and the defense has played extremely well in front of Letourneau.
“It means everything to be going to the Garden,” said senior defenseman Mike Arsenault. “We have a great team here. We work hard in practice. We deserve it.
“I was a little kid sitting in the stands when Tewksbury won it at the Garden (in 2011). It was always the dream to play in the Garden. This team made it happen. You could see our younger players had lots of ability at tryouts. We just wanted to get them to work with us and get connections and that really showed up on the ice tonight. We’re really playing well as a team.”
Tewksbury took a 4-2 lead into the third period. Morris potted his second goal of the game with 7:41 remaining to give the Redmen a three-goal lead.
“It was a rebound,” said Morris. “I managed to slide it in. There wasn’t much room, but it found a hole. My confidence is growing with each game. I hope it continues at the Garden.”
Just when it appeared Tewksbury had things under control, Boston Latin struck for two quick scores to cut the deficit to 5-4 with 3:20 left to play. Cooke’s empty-net goal with 31.5 seconds remaining secured Tewksbury’s berth in the state final.
“At the end of the game, even through they scored, I could see it in their eyes that we got this,” said Doherty. “They did a good job forechecking and finished it off with that (empty-net) goal.”
Tewksbury got second-period goals from Pierce, Morris and Cooke while building a 4-1 lead.
After falling behind 1-0, the Redmen evened the score on Bieren’s goal with 8:20 left to play in the first period.
Will O’Keefe chipped in offensively with two assists. Asa DeRoche, Aaron Connelly, Aaron Scott, Michael Dell’Orfano, Robert Casey and Kyle Lombardo notched one assist each.
“These guys are a very good team,” said Doherty. “They are very, very close. They don’t care who scores the goals as long as the team scores. They get excited for each other. There’s no one-man show here. I think that is what has gotten us to this point.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi