Cohasset boys hockey coach Bob Walsh and the rest of his staff looked forward to this season. The combination of a deep senior class and a promising freshman crop made this year’s team one of the most talented Walsh has led in his eight years with the Sailors.
The team’s first few games only made him more excited.
Cohasset opened the season with an 8-0 rout of Silver Lake. The Sailors followed that up the next day by topping Hanover, 6-3.
They are now 14-5 thanks to the strong start.
“The strongest game of the season was probably one of our first two,” senior captain Terence Doonan said. “Those were both great teams and that started us off real well.”
Doonan leads the team with 24 goals and scored his 100th point earlier this season.
“He’s got a great head for the game,” senior captain Chris Lund said of Doonan. “He’s one of the absolute smartest athletes I’ve ever played with. Ever since he was a little kid, he’s had a good sense for the puck and a great hockey IQ.”
Walsh added that Doonan is also the most talkative player in the locker room, often making tactical suggestions between periods.
This year, Doonan has played on the first line with freshman center Cole Joslin as well as fellow senior captain Chris Cohen . Walsh recognized Joslin’s talent immediately and has been playing the freshman on the top line since the beginning of the season. Joslin has responded by putting up 32 points, second on the team.
But Cohasset’s attack is far from a two-man game. Five players have at least eight goals, and all four lines have contributed to the Sailors’ 97 goals through Sunday, 18 more than any other South Shore League team.
The coach goes out of his way to avoid numbering the lines, opting instead to label them with colors. He has no problem starting his second — or “gray” — line, led by senior captain Colin Whalen, over Doonan’s trio.
Walsh added that the back-end of his lineup has been so potent, he has struggled to avoid running up the score on outmanned opponents.
The team is also deep at goalie. The coach has spent the year alternating between senior Brandon Winn and sophomore Liam McHugh and is still not sure who he will call upon in the playoffs.
“Liam has the advantage that he has two more years and for Brandon this is it,” Walsh said. “The hard part is as a coach I want to be fair to the senior but I have a responsibility to the team.”
Winn is more of an instinctive goalie, Walsh said, while McHugh has had more training.
McHugh was credited with a shutout in the team’s season-opening win over Silver Lake. The next day, it was Winn who controlled Hanover.
“That’s when I was like, ‘This is going to be a really great season,’ ” Walsh said.
The goalie situation is often a topic of conversation at Walsh’s semi-regular breakfasts with his captains. He said the meetings have helped to bring the team closer together.
The fact that more than half the team members have a brother on the squad has also strengthened its chemistry. It was something Walsh did not notice early on, but has tried to take advantage of lately. At Friday’s practice, the Sailors’ so-called “Band of Brothers” gathered for a group photo.
Two of them, Lund and his younger brother Michael, a junior, are playing together as a defensive pairing. The older brother spoke to the benefits of playing with a sibling.
“We are so close off the ice so it makes a huge difference on the ice,” Chris Lund said. “We always click.”
The whole team grew close after a 4-3 overtime loss to Blue Hills ended their tournament run last year. Several members of the team went on to make deep tournament runs in lacrosse and football before coming up empty-handed. All of that has added to their motivation.
Walsh said he often got texts from his players during the offseason. I can’t wait for hockey season, they usually said.
“These guys want to go to the Garden so badly,” Walsh said. “It’s never been done in Cohasset history, so it’s big for them.”
Xaverian (8-3-6): The Hawks entered the week with a good chance at a Super 8 invite, though their chances would have been even better had they been able to hold onto a couple third-period leads.
Braintree (12-4-1): A pair of 4-2 wins over Duxbury and Framingham in early February mean the Wamps, who scored four goals in seven straight games entering the week, are getting hot at just the right time.
Norwell (11-3-3): The Clippers entered the week having not lost in 2014 thanks to one of the more talented lineups in D3 South.
Canton (10-3-4): Seven straight wins entering the week gave the Bulldogs a Davenport Division championship. If sophomore goalie Justin Slocum can continue holding opponents to an average of 1.44 goals, Canton could keep the streak alive a while longer.
Duxbury (12-1-4): Falmouth ruined the Dragons’ shot at an undefeated season Sunday, but with Quinnipiac commit Rachel Myette giving up just 0.55 goals per game, Duxbury still seems like a safe bet to contend.
Hingham (9-7-4): Their record is not stellar — the Harborwomen only clinched a playoff spot last Monday against Canton — but recent wins over Braintree and Westwood proved what Hingham is capable of.
Archbishop Williams (11-4-4): The Bishops are led by freshman forward Katherine Meehan of Quincy (21 goals, 12 assists) and senior goalie Ashley Dallaire of East Bridgewater (1.63 goals against).
Westwood (10-2-5): Back-to-back losses to Hingham and St. Mary’s of Lynn ended the Wolverines bid for an undefeated season, but the team bounced back with a win over Medway/Ashland Friday and their earlier 1-1 tie with Duxbury proved they can play with anybody.
Norwood (10-5-2): Junior forward Kacie Smith’s 28 goals paces the team, which proved its worth early in the year with wins over Braintree and Dedham.