After a year’s wait, redemption
Arlington Catholic takes Division 1 hockey crown
Their loss to Springfield Cathedral in the state final a year ago was always in the back oftheir minds. A loss and a tie against Archbishop Williams during the regular season only fueled their fire
Skating for the Division 1 state championship on the TD Garden ice requires no additional motivation, but members of the Arlington Catholic boys’ hockey team were clearly on a mission Sunday evening.
Riding the sterling work of junior Cam Kelly in net, the Cougars put an exclamation point on their title march, blanking Archbishop Williams, 5-0, to capture their first state title since 1997, when it became the first coed school to win the Super 8 hockey tournament.
What was the difference this season?
“We got the bounces,’’ said Arlington Catholic coach Dan Shine. “When you get this far, you need to get some bounces. Some times your luck runs out. I think they grew a lot from last year’s experience. They never forgot how last season ended. This group was on a mission.’’
And in Kelly, the Cougars (14-7-4) had the best goalie in the tournament.
He allowed just three goals over the Cougars’ five-game tourney run, but saved his best for Sunday’s title game, posting 14 saves en route to the shutout (shared with junior John Busa, who played the final minutes with the game in hand). Seven of those stops came in the game’s opening minutes when the Archies came out determined.
“They came out fast,’’ said Kelley. “It was busy early on. But my defense gave me good looks and, generally, they were easy stops. After their initial push, the defense settled in and made an easy time of it. They were fantastic in front of me — really dominant.’’
Shine said after Sunday’s win that Kelly is “just a terrific goaltender, it’s as simple as that. He was that way again today. He’s been that way most of the year.
“Believe me; we rode his back for most of the tournament. You don’t get here unless you have a great goalie. You’re certainly not going to get through the Division 1 North tournament without a terrific goalie. He proved who he was today.’’
Kelley’s postseason heroics began in the tournament opener on Feb. 24. The Cougars entered as the sixth seed with a 10-7-4 record and drew a tough first-round matchup in Reading. With a brilliant performance in net, Kelley held the Rockets at bay, and Arlington Catholic made it through by way of a shootout.
The Cougars captured their second straight Division 1 North title as Kelley held Woburn, Central Catholic, and St. Mary’s of Lynn to one goal apiece.
“I really felt like I elevated my game for the playoffs,’’ said Kelley, a Globe All-Scholastic and Central Catholic MVP a year ago, when he recorded a 1.84 goals-against average. “I think I’m a clutch player. I like playing under the spotlight — most goalies do. It’s all about focus — focus and preparation. I came to the rink every day itching to go. You’ve got to channel that adrenaline. I think, as a team, we did that.’’
Kelley’s senior season didn’t get off to the best start, when he was battling the flu and not particularly sharp, and the team suffered. Having entered the season with the highest expectations, the Cougars struggled to a 1-5-1 start.
But as Kelley returned to form, so did his teammates.
“We got off to a tough start when Cam was sick,’’ said Shine. “Once he got healthy, we took off. It’s pretty clear how important he’s been. He makes us go.’’
The squad featured 13 seniors skating in Cougar blue and gold, driven to avenge last year’s overtime loss to Cathedral.
“We brought the intensity all three periods’’ on Sunday, said Shine. “Even when we were up 4-0, we played like it was 0-0. That’s what you’ve to do on a stage like this. We learned the lesson last year.
“It’s a long walk out if you drop the state championship,’’ he said. “The elevator ride is a lonely one. We made sure that didn’t happen again.’’
The Cougars’ vaunted Blue Line of seniors John Needham (center), Paul Kehoe (left wing), and Michael Settipani (right wing) accounted for three of the five goals.
Kehoe (1 goal, 1 assist) got the scoring started in the first period, whipping a rebound past Archbishop Williams goalie Nick Commesso.
Needham (1 goal, 2 assists) stretched the first period lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal. In the second, Settipani (1 goal, 1 assist) went top shelf.
Archbishop Williams “has a tremendous group but our big line, I didn’t think they had anybody that could contain them,’’ said Shine. “The three are so good together. They’ve been playing as a unit for some time, and the chemistry is easy to see.’’
The trio, like Kelly, delivered on the biggest stage.
“Last year, we made it to this point and lost,’’ said Kelly. “It was not a good way to finish. This year, we got the job done.’’
In the end, Longmeadow’s powerful duo of Tyler Kelleher and Devin Joyce (65 points each) just proved too much for the Hawks. The two combined for seven points — Joyce notched a hat trick and an assist, and Kelleher netted two goals and an assist.
“They’re just a tremendous tandem,’’ said Hudson coach Mike Nanartowich. “Any team would struggle with them. But I’ll take my team over that one any day of the week. It was a memorable season. I’m proud of them.’’
Among the participants are Framingham High’s Tyler Byrne and Cam Chassie, Needham’s Sam Kane and Paul Sharpe, Joe Fernandes of Franklin, Reid Kapinos of Wellesley, and Mike Heyde of Natick.
The North All-Stars will be coached by Bob Conceison of Burlington High School, while Catholic Memorial High’s Billy Hanson will coach the South All-Stars.
Jeff Schaible can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org