Tewksbury boys’ hockey coach Derek Doherty believes his team’s first-place standing in the Merrimack Valley Conference is attributable to its defensive play.

“Defense needs to come first. It’s kind of cliché but you can’t let the other team carry the puck too long,” Doherty said.

According to Doherty, Michael Casey and Jeffery Giasullo have been crucial to the team’s defensive approach, which has kept pressure off goalie Kyle Paquette.

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It was fitting that Tewksbury won a defensive battle (2-1) with Haverhill on Saturday.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t let them get into our zone and keep their shots limited in ‘our house area,’ which we call the goalie’s zone,” Doherty said.

The Redmen ended the game with a 30-15 advantage on shots.

Though Tewksbury struggled to score Saturday, offense hasn’t been a problem this season. The Redmen have scored six or more goals in five games.

“The lines have been working hard and we’ve generated a lot of goals off turnovers. Our style of play is more physical and we try to take guys off the puck,” Doherty said.

Tewksbury has had some close calls of late. The one-goal victory over Haverhill came just a week after a 6-4 win over Methuen.

“[Methuen is] a very underrated team, they’ve won two in a row since our game,” said Doherty. “They’re well-coached and have some good players, their record [2-8-4] doesn’t do them justice.

“We had a lot of scoring opportunities and the offense was generated off defensive play. That game became more open and it seemed like we certainly did get out of our game plan.”

Doherty said playing at home has been helpful.

“It’s good for us because it gets our kids back healthy and a little bit of rest,” he said. “We’ve been playing through injuries and guys have been stepping up and doing the job.”

Tewksbury has a week off before taking on Andover at Breakaway Ice Arena on Feb. 2.

Celebrating 50 years

BC High and Catholic Memorial will meet for the second time this season on Feb. 2, when the Edward M. Wright Memorial Award will be presented to the game’s most valuable player.

Wright played for CM in the first varsity hockey meeting between the teams in 1962. He went on to graduate from Tufts Medical School in 1976 and became a well-respected cardiologist.

This season marks the 50th anniversary of the schools’ first varsity encounter. Boston College coach Jerry York (BC High) and Boston University coach Jack Parker (CM) both played in that game at McHugh Forum, and they will be in attendance to present the award.