The captains of this year’s TMHS Boys Hockey team

The captains on this year’s TMHS Boys Hockey team include from left Caden Connors, Aaron Connelly and Jason Cooke. (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com).

TEWKSBURY – Tewksbury Memorial High School Boys Hockey coach Derek Doherty was asked a pretty easy question, “how does the team look”? With a dead serious look on his face, he replied, “They're here to win. You can tell by their faces.”

Doherty brings back a tremendously talented team, one that has tremendous experience, size, goal scorers, top defensemen and a stellar goalie. But as anything goes in sports – slumps, injuries, big heads, bad chemistry – nothing is given to you and this talented team will once have to earn everything.

“We had a scrimmage against the Jr. Rangers Premier team and we lost 2-1 and they probably had six power plays and they scored a power play goal. From the back end to all the way up top, we have three good lines, we have some good defensemen coming back including some younger kids who look really improved this year,” said Doherty.

Excluding the abbreviated COVID-19 season, Tewksbury has qualified for the state tournament for 17 straight years. This year's post-season tournament is different with the statewide format, and because that will make things more difficult come March, Doherty beefed up his non-league schedule. Instead of three games in Maine, he is playing one, while he put the team into the Ed Burns Tournament, which is three Sundays where the team will square off against one of the other top 15 public school teams in the entire state. Besides those four, are single games with Billerica and Wilmington.

This year in the MVC/DCL, there's no longer crossover games, so Tewksbury will be facing its D2 opponents twice each, including Lincoln-Sudbury, Boston Latin, North Andover, Acton-Boxboro, Newton South, Concord-Carlisle and Lowell, and then those six non-leaguers.

As for the actual team, the Redmen will be led by its three captains, forwards Aaron Connelly and Jason Cooke, and defenseman Caden Connors.

Cooke and Connelly will be on the first forward line along with Cole Stone. Connelly had a terrific junior season with the team, Cooke is the real deal with his skating and rocket shot, and Stone makes a lot of things happen.

Matthew Cooke, a high-flying, extremely talented sophomore, will be with another talented tenth grader Tyler Barnes and senior Sean Lane, who is a veteran presence. The third forward group will have four players rotating with juniors Brady Chapman, Conor Cremin, Ryan Flynn and sophomore Jeremy Insogna.

“Barnes looks fantastic and he is flying. Chapman is bigger and he has great hands. He's probably 6-feet-1 and he's our third line center – he would be on higher lanes for other teams. All four of the kids on the third line are solid and none of them miss a beat. You're not making a bad decision by putting any of them out on the ice,” said Doherty.

The fourth forward group has seniors Andrew Della Piana, Cody Mercuri and John Ragucci with sophomore Michael Connors.

Defensively should be the team's real strength with Connors and junior Nicholas DiCiccio, two of the better blueliners in the area back again. Justin Rooney and Billy Doherty are veterans who return, while, junior Andrew Whynot and sophomores Cooper Robillard and Cullen Mangan add depth.

“DiCioccio has been awesome. He's solid as a rock back there. He's quick, he has great hands and he's playing well,” said Doherty.

Back in the net is junior Ben O'Keefe, who has played in a handful of games each of the past two seasons, all showing tremendous promise.

“Benny is big, he is good and he could potentially be the best goalie that we've had (since I've been the coach),” said Doherty. “He doesn't get nervous. You should have seen him against the Jr. Rangers – he was making things look so easy. He's big, he's legs flare and you just say to yourself, 'this kid is a freak in net'. He's like 6-feet-2 and he doesn't care. He goes out here to play hockey and have some fun and you can see that.”

The back-up goalie is freshman David Karlberg.

The puck officially dropped Wednesday against Concord-Carlisle with results not known as of presstime before the Redmen travel to face Newton South on Friday before coming back home on the 23rd to face North Andover.

“We have a mix. We have some strong skaters and we're always physical. We have a big team in terms of physical size, we have a very big team (physically speaking),” said the coach.

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