TEWKSBURY – For years and years, the Tewksbury Memorial High School boys' ice hockey team has been successful in terms of wins and losses. During that time, veteran head coach Derek Doherty never gets too high or never gets too low. Throughout every season, he insists that his team outworks their opponents every night, works as a team, plays the system, plays in all three zones and plays physical, and if the team does that, not only do they get better each and every day, but eventually make a deep state tournament run.
On Monday night, the Redmen had a pretty big challenge with the likes of MVC/DCL Division 1 foe Billerica coming into town. A big and physical team, that has two legit stars, including one of the top goalies around in Connor Feeney, and a powerful defenseman named Matt Livingston, who possesses size, strength, a strong skill set and a blazing slap shot.
Tewksbury absolutely dominated Billerica (5-4-0) in a scoreless first period but didn't let the countless number of acrobatic saves by Feeney rattle their cages. Instead, they worked to get better. The Redmen took advantage of two power play opportunities, while the team's incredible skating ability and strong heads-up passing led Tewksbury to three goals in the second period and four more in the third period as part of the 7-1 schellacking over the Indians, including a 46-18 shot advantage.
The win, coupled with a 5-2 victory over Concord-Carlisle and a 6-1 win over Haverhill this past week – three wins in six days – the Redmen have extended their winning streak to six, qualified for the state tournament once again, improved their overall record to 11-2. The team currently sits at No. 4 in both the Hockey Night in Boston and Boston Herald Division 2 Hockey Polls.
"We're getting better every single day," said Tewksbury head coach Derek Doherty. "All three lines are playing our systems and we just have to outwork the other team in order to win. Since (our last loss against) Boston Latin game, we changed things up and it's been working. We are flying right now."
Billerica head coach Jim Eagen was certainly frustrated and aggravated with his team's performance. Much like the game against Westford Academy seven days earlier, opposing coaches are realizing just how potent, skillful and dangerous this Redmen team is now, and can be a month or so from now.
"A lot of individualization going on out there," Eagen said. "It's a lot of individual play. Tewksbury is a good skating team and all three lines skated as units and all of their guys played 200-feet. We didn't play a 200-foot game. We weren't getting pucks deep and we weren't getting back into our zone. Their guys would go 200 feet and out backchecker would go 120 feet. You can't win hockey games that way.
"We also became a little bit undisciplined and went to the penalty box a few too many times and they scored three power play goals. You can't win hockey games that way."
Feeney is a superb goalie with an unorthodox style. He's usually very aggressive out of his net. On Monday, he stayed back a bit more and he was tremendous in the first period making all 18 saves. Tewksbury cracked him for two power play goals to start the second, before things just fell apart for Billerica the rest of the way.
"No, I didn't (think we would score seven goals off Feeney)," answered Doherty. "But we peppered him, we peppered him. We had 49 shots on net tonight and obviously that's a lot. At first, he was saving everything and I was like 'no way this can happen' because were just flying, and then we scored one (and things kept going from there).
“And at our end, (our goalie) Patrick (Letourneau) also played well. He made the saves that he needed to make tonight. He's been playing really well lately."
Entering the game, Tewksbury's top line of Campbell Pierce, Will O'Keefe and Jason Cooke had combined to score 33 goals this season.
In Monday's win, they combined to score five more, while adding six assists. Cooke led the way with a hat trick and added an assist, O'Keefe had one goal and four assists, and Campbell Pierce had 1 goal and 1 assist. The three of them now have 38 goals in 13 games – averaging nearly three goals a game.
Cooke scored the team's first, fourth and sixth goals, and O'Keefe scored the second and Campbell the last. Senior defenseman Tom Barbati – a transfer from the Kent School in Connecticut – has incredible skating ability, speed and hands, and continues to be the ace on the blueline. He added a goal and an assist, while, Cole Stone had a goal and an assist and Caden Connors had one helper.
Cooke's first goal was on a two-man power play, Barbati's goal came on the man-up to make it 3-0, before the Redmen added two more power play tallies in the third period.
"We have real good penalty killing and we also have a good power play and both were on tonight," said Doherty. "We are playing well and obviously it's a lot of fun when you are winning. Hopefully we can keep this going."
In the win over Concord-Carlisle, five different players scored a goal with Cooke, Pierce, Anthony Pecci, O'Keefe and Justin Rooney with assists going Connors, Ryan Flynn, Cooke, John Beatrice, Sean Lane, Kyle Morris, O'Keefe and Stone.
In the win over Haverhill, again it was six different scorers with Asa DeRoche and Flynn getting their first of their careers, O'Keefe, Cooke, Beatrice and Pecci, while, Pierce had two assists, Connors, Barbati, Flynn, Cooke, Pierce, Beatrice, Rooney, Morris and Stone had one each.
Tewksbury will be off until facing North Andover next Wednesday and then will follow that up with another home contest on Saturday, February 1st against Concord-Carlisle starting at 5:00 pm.
"We have a nice little nine day break, we can heal up a little bit and we'll get ready for North Andover," said Doherty.