BOSTON – Of the 25 players on this year's Tewksbury Memorial High School State Championship Boys Hockey team, ten of them are seniors. While some of those ten saw the ice a lot more than the others, the ten left an incredible legacy for future teams to follow.
“The senior class is really a great class. You go to the state championship with them during their freshmen year and they were a very talented group coming in as freshmen,” said head coach Derek Doherty. “I was excited about it and they are also hard workers too. They are all good friends. That friendship is such a great bond. I have pictures of them laying around a living room together just all watching television. They can just hang out because they really enjoy each other. That's been a big part of our success. When we give up a goal or are down a goal, like tonight when Canton scored, you could see Caden (Connors) and Aaron (Connelly) just say 'that's nothing, let's go. We know what we have to do. Goals are going to happen, so let's rebound from it'.”
Doherty added that the team's three captains – Connors and Jason Cooke with Connelly as an assistant – have been the glue holding this team together all season.
“The three of them have been awesome. They were all great leaders in the locker room and on the ice. They all have their own different way of leading, some lead by example, some lead vocally. They just do it all. Obviously you are not going to win a state championship without good leadership and we definitely have good leadership,” said Doherty.
For Cooke and Connelly, they have been a part of two league titles already this season. Cooke, as well as fellow seniors John Ragucci and Andrew Della Piana, were part of the TMHS Golf team's Division 2 title, while, Connelly was a captain and a big part of the football team's league title.
The other seniors who played in their final game included forwards Sean Lane, Cole Stone and Cody Mercuri as well as defensemen Justin Rooney and Billy Doherty.
There's been nine state championships in the history of TMHS and current Athletic Director Ron Drouin has been on duty for three, including the Girls Track team's All-State title in 2016, the Red Rangers Division 1 state hockey title in 2019 and now this year's boys hockey team. Like the other two, this title was not easy to attain.
"What a great run the hockey team had,” Drouin said. “They handled the regular season in the MVC/DCL undefeated, played very well in the Burns Tournament and ran off five straight in the state tournament. I am happy for everyone involved with our program. Coach Doherty and his staff work hard, his players are invested in a bunch of activities in school besides hockey. They are easy to root for.”
He added that the support from the entire school system and town certainly didn't go unnoticed.
“I loved seeing the community support grow through each round, culminating with a Sea of Red on our side of the Garden. It was awesome. We need to give Police Chief Ryan Columbus, the Tewksbury Police Department and Tewksbury Fire Department a Thank You for taking the team on a trip through town on their return home. It's not like that in other towns and it's what makes Tewksbury special.”
For Coach Doherty, he continues to build up quite the coaching resume. Sunday marked his 276th career win, which goes with two state championship titles, a state finalist trophy, two Division 2 North Championship titles, two Division 2 North Sectional Finalists trophies and seven league titles. He was asked what it's like for him personally as a coach, to bring home a second state championship title. He ties Hall of Famer and former Athletic Director Bob Aylward with two state titles each as a coach.
“It's awesome (to do it again). Obviously it rejuvenates you and you feel good. I think our program is a very solid program,” said Doherty. “The expectations are high when these kids walk in (every year) and they know it. They want to accomplish the goals that were set from previous players (and teams) and obviously we did that this year.”
While Doherty tied Lefty Aylward for most titles as a coach, assistant coach Randy Boyce tied an Aylward with his own mark. Randy was the winning goalie on the first state championship team in 1995, and now has been a part of two state titles as an assistant coach, in 2011 and this year. Football coach Brian Aylward was a member of the 1985 Super Bowl team, an assistant on the state championship team in '96 and then the head coach of the 2013 team.
A week before the 2011 Redmen Hockey team took on and beat Franklin, Boyce was asked about what he remembered from that 1995 season, and his words, now eleven years old, still hold true.
“I remember after the semi-final game against Hingham at Boston University, that we were going to play at the Garden. I just remember how awesome it was going to be because it was the last year of (the old Garden) as it would never be there again. And we were one of the last teams to play on that ice. It was just incredible leaving there as state champions. It’s something that I always remember. It’s been 16 years and I still get together with guys on the team and reminiscence on the run that we had and it was just fantastic.”
Also on Sunday, Adam Hill, a former TMHS player, who graduated in 2002, is an assistant coach on the Hanover team, and they defeated Marlborough to win the Division 3 state championship title by a 5-3 score.
After Tewksbury's second round state tournament win over Longmeadow, junior forward Brady Chapman was diagnosed with a Grade-1 separated shoulder. He did not play in either the Silver Lake or Duxbury games, but came back and played a regular shift in Sunday's win.
“He was still hurting but he sucked it up,” said Doherty. “After the Longmeadow game, he took some time off. Then he skated with us for two days, wearing the blue (non contact player) jersey (at practice) and then he sat a few days. (Tewksbury's Athletic Trainer) Chris (Mahanna) then gave Brady the OK to go and play and I said 'OK, let's just see what happens'. He was on the ice and then I looked over and he was part of our forward rotation and I was like 'Oh My God' (I never thought he would play). Good for him, and I thought that entire third line played great.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Back in 2011, Derek and Ryan Doherty shared a great moment together, winning the state championship as father-son. On Sunday, Doherty's daughter Marissa got her dad's second title run off to a great start with her absolutely beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.
“She sang in the first state tournament game and after we won, she asked me if I wanted her to sing in the next one, especially since we won the first game and I said of course,” said Doherty. “Then she sang at the game in Framingham (in the state semi-finals) because when you're the home team (or higher seed) you are allowed to have a singer. So then at the MIAA State Championship Meeting, they asked us if we had a singer and we said yes. Marissa doesn't go south under pressure. Even with the size of the crowd that was there. She said to me after that between the carpet and seeing all of the people out there, it was like 'whoa'. I'm just so incredibly proud of her.”