After winning the Division 2 state championship last season, coach Steve Scanlon has Wilmington playing with high efficiency this year.
Part of the reason for the Wildcats’ 13-2-1 record and No. 11 ranking is veteran talent. They have just four sophomores, with the rest of the players either juniors or seniors.
“We’re a veteran team. A lot of players are back from last year when we won the Division 2 state title,” said Scanlon.
Wilmington takes a defense-first approach on the ice that starts with junior goalie Drew Foley.
“Drew is a real good goalie, he keeps us in a lot of games. The kids play with confidence in front of him,” Scanlon said.
With seniors Anthony Castellano and Cam Collins on the blue line, Foley has had a lot of help in front.
“They’ve been through a lot with us, we count on them,” Scanlon said of his defensemen. “They move the puck well out of the zone and clean up our end. A big strength of our team is our defensive play.”
Wilmington was involved in plenty of tight games last season and half of its games this year have been decided by two goals or fewer.
“In the Middlesex League, there are no nights off,” said Scanlon. “For the younger players, that can be a bit of a grind. They don’t expect to be in tight, emotional games every week. The veterans have been helping the younger kids get used to it.”
Scanlon believes that experience will be a big help come tournament time.
“You’re usually in close games [in tournaments]. The team who handles that environment usually advances,” he said.
Wilmington has been named to the Super 8 watch list, which Scanlon considers an honor.
“We’d go if we were invited but a lot is in front of us,” the coach noted.
“At this point a loss or tie would complicate things. As a D2 team, it’s certainly an honor. We could compete, but on the other side of it, the chances of advancing wouldn’t be good.”
Scanlon said he’s focusing on the more immeditate future than the postseason. The Wildcats still have Burlington, No. 4 Reading, and rival Tewksbury, among others, on the schedule.
“We’re taking it week to week for the last few,” said Scanlon. “The Tewksbury game is always a great rivalry at the end of the season. Then we’ve got to play Acton-Boxboro, who is a talented team despite its record.”
Games to Watch This Week
No. 19 Chelmsford vs. No. 6 Central Catholic (Monday, 6 p.m.) — It’s a battle between the top two teams in the Merrimack Valley Conference. An upset would be huge for the Lions’ Super 8 chances. After losing to Malden Catholic last Wednesday, the Raiders need a win to get back on track.
No. 9 Hingham vs. No. 12 Winchester (Monday, 6 p.m.) — Winchester has suffered some losses as of late and narrowly defeated Woburn, 3-2, last Wednesday. The Sachems need to come out strong and make a statement to the Super 8 decision-makers. Hingham is coming off a loss to top-ranked Springfield Cathedral on Feb. 2, so it has had plenty of time to game plan for Winchester.
No. 15 Malden Catholic vs. Franklin (Tuesday, 6 p.m.) — The Lancers are coming off a big 4-0 win over Central Catholic last week but they can’t afford to slip up against Franklin. This contest is excluded from the Panthers’ record, so they have nothing to lose; however, MC could see its Super 8 hopes dashed with a loss to a Division 2 team. The Lancers already had a close call this season with Division 2 Wilmington.
No. 7 Catholic Memorial vs. Braintree (Saturday, 1:30) — Both schools are Super 8 candidates but neither is a sure thing. The team that leaves Zapustas Arena in Randolph with a win will be one step closer to the Super 8.