After each of their nine victories this season, the Winchester High boys’ hockey team has blasted their favorite song in the locker room: “Boondocks” by Little Big Town.
Saturday night, though, for just the fourth time this season, the room was silent.
The Sachems entered Saturday night’s matchup against Burlington sailing at 8-0-3, but the defending Division 1 state champions, off to a so-so 3-3-4 start, stonewalled Winchester in a 3-0 victory.
Maybe the Sachems should have cranked up the tune anyway. Winchester bounced back with a 5-1 win over Hamden, Conn., at Walter Brown Arena Monday night.
About midway through the song, the band sings: “It's where I learned about working hard . . . and knowing where I stand. You can take it or leave it, this is me. This is who I am.”
The Sachems, whose moderately successful 11-8-3 campaign last season came to an early end against perennial contender Austin Prep in the first round of the Division 1 North tourney, are a young and inexperienced team.
Asked about his team’s identity, third-year coach Matt Spang said, “We’re still a work in progress with that.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys and a lot of new guys. . . . I don’t know where we’re at and I don’t want to know where we’re at because I’m only worried about the 25 guys in the locker room and whether or not they’re going to do their job tomorrow night.”
But Spang said he believes things are headed in the right direction, in terms of niche and identity.
“Before you even get into the hockey stuff,” he said. “you have to have that. You have to have a good locker room, and we do. There’s a good vibe in there.”
Overall though, the good vibe is only one aspect of the team’s key components: chemistry, character, and competition.
One morning earlier this season, Spang headed to the rink for an 8 a.m. practice following a poor performance in a game the night before. He expected to see a tired, less excited, downtrodden group of players waiting.
Instead, as he entered the coach’s room at 7:30, he heard a resounding noise through the wall. His entire squad was belting out the words to Fun’s “Some Nights.”
“That’s our song right now,” said senior captain Connor Tedesco, whom assistant coach Doug Decaprio praises as a “terrific captain” and “great leader on and off the ice.”
For the Sachems, “Some Nights” is actually the perfect compliment to “Boondocks.” The song is about a young soldier who gives his life to a cause, and, while fighting, is trying to find his niche, exclaiming, “What do I stand for?”
Every player loves hockey, cannot wait to get on the ice every day.
“It’s not hard,” Tedesco said of getting the team up and ready to play. “These guys are ready to go.”
The key to success lies in the atmosphere of competition.
Spang likes to remind his players that their position is not safe.
“You’ve got to compete to keep your role,” he said. “It’s tough, but it keeps guys on their toes. They know they have to earn it.”
The epitome of this competitiveness starts in goal, where senior Peter Olsen and sophomore James Offner battle in practice to be ready for every game. Thus far, they’ve both been terrific and serve on a platoon — and it’s worked. In five games, Olsen has a 1.60 goals against average, while Offner has played four and has a minuscule 1.00 GAA.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Span. “By no means are we a finished product, not even close. They don’t give out any trophies in January, so we’re just hoping to qualify.”
The next test is Saturday night, against defending Division 2 state champion Wilmington at the O’Brien Arena in Woburn.
girls are undefeated
When Brian Seabury was named head coach of the Beverly/Danvers girls’ co-op program before the season, he knew he was taking the helm of a solid program.
With “a good nucleus coming back,” he hoped for a little improvement on a squad that finished 10-8-2 last season.
What he has, instead, is a very good — and potentially great — team.
Off to an 11-0-0 start start, Seabury’s squad is sound on every front. Through those first 11 games, the Panthers have posted three shutouts and have allowed more than one goal only once.
In that same stretch, they have scored five or more goals in seven games, including a 14-goal outburst the day after Christmas against Peabody/Lynnfield.
From an offensive standpoint, things start with senior cocaptain Livvy Konaxis , a first-line center from Danvers who has committed to playing hockey at Holy Cross. She provides plenty of scoring opportunties for linemates Nicole Woods and Anna O’Neill, a freshman.
On the other side of the puck, senior goaltender Ami Thompson has stepped up in her first year as a full-time goalie.
Sophomore defenseman Caitlin McBride , dubbed the quarterback of the defense by Seabury, anchors the blue liners with cocaptain Katie Szela from Danvers.
“Their competitive nature is as good as I’ve seen in all my years of coaching,” says Seabury.
“We’re looking forward to the tournament, moving on, and keeping our current streak alive.”Pat Bradley can be reached at email@example.com.