Caulin Martel admits he was getting tired as Saturday’s boys’ hockey game against Tewksbury progressed. The same was true for the Dracut/Tyngsborough senior goalie when the teams played three days earlier.
But to a neutral observer of either Merrimack Valley Conference contest, nothing seemed terribly out of the ordinary. Martel was a picture of calm, maintaining his position and turning aside shots from the powerful Redmen, keeping his team in it to the end.
D/T ultimately dropped both meetings — a 4-2 decision last Wednesday at Tewksbury’s Breakaway Ice Center, followed by Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Tsongas Center in Lowell. But it was the shot charts, and not the scoreboard, that told the story for both games.
Martel finished with 61 saves in Wednesday’s loss (one of the goals was an empty-netter), then went one better — or two — with 63 more stops in Saturday’s game.
“I didn’t realize how many there were,” Martel said. “When you’re in the zone, you just know you’re facing a lot of shots.”
Tracking shots in high school hockey is an inexact science, but there was no questioning the legitimacy of either performance, even if it didn’t seem like Martel was having “stand on his head” types of performances.
Part of that was by design. D/T, which normally plays a Division 3 schedule, has been pitted against some tougher foes this season in the MVC as a result of the pandemic, and coach Jeff DuRoss says they have emphasized keeping traffic away from Martel.
“They’re a very well-coached team, and they throw a lot of pucks on net from their defense,” DuRoss said of Tewksbury.
Said Martel: “We try to keep everything to the outside, if possible.”
Martel — who is from Dracut, for which he also golfs and plays baseball — said his favorite goalie is former UMass star and current Los Angeles Kings veteran Jonathan Quick. The irony is that, stylistically, Martel’s current game bears little resemblance to that of Quick, who is an extremely flashy type of goaltender.
But it wasn’t always that way for the 6-foot Martel, who DuRoss remembers being “5-1 or 5-2” when he arrived as a freshman three years ago.
Martel credits his development to working with Goaltending Development Services, owned by current Pittsburgh Penguins goalie coach Mike Buckley, who has previously worked with Quick as well as the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask.
“It’s pretty much changed entirely,” Martel said of his style. “When I first started playing, I was diving out of position, making recovery saves.
“That’s how I used to play because I was a lot smaller. I modeled my game after [Quick]. Now that I’ve gotten bigger, I’ve calmed down my game.”
The results have been obvious. Martel has a .935 save percentage this season with a pair of shutouts.
“He’s grown and matured. The confidence in his game right now is really high,” DuRoss said. “What you saw the other night, that’s what he’s been the whole season.”
D/T is 4-4-0 this season, its other losses coming in two-game splits against Lowell and Methuen. The win against Lowell — last year’s Division 3 North champion — was the first in DuRoss’s five seasons with the program.
Both DuRoss and Martel believe this year’s team could have contended for a sectional title in a normal season. Martel is an alternate captain with senior defenseman Ben Warner, while senior forwards Brian Workman and Jared DeBruin are captains. Trevor Freelove and Tanner Marshall are the other seniors, and Freelove and DeBruin are among the four from Tyngsborough on the 20-player roster.
Instead, they are embracing the different challenges of this MVC-only season, which includes a pair of upcoming games this week against Division 1 Chelmsford. Martel said he and the team approach it no differently than they did the matchups with Tewksbury.
“We’re just focused on the challenge of trying to beat a team that’s that good, same with Chelmsford or Billerica,” Martel said. “It’s really cool to play one of them.”
DuRoss, who starred on some powerful Catholic Memorial teams in the 1990s with Tom Noble in net, and later played at Fitchburg State, knows all about testing yourself against the best.
“We’ve got a good senior class, good leadership. This team comes prepared,” he said. “Knowing what the schedule was going to be, they were excited for the challenge to play these teams, seeing if they can compete with them, knowing there’s something to play for.”
▪ It must have been something in the water of the Merrimack River, because a few miles down the road from Tsongas and a few hours later Saturday, Haverhill sophomore Cal Pruett put up a huge 66-save performance in a 7-1 loss to Central Catholic at Lawrence’s Valley Forum.
To Hillies coach Joe Roberts, there was no doubt during the game that Pruett was on to something special.
“It didn’t matter what side you were on, you were rooting for him,” Roberts said. “It was great to see. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s got a great work ethic.
“He’s been sharp all year, but he just took it to another level [Saturday].”
Roberts, a 1985 Haverhill graduate, said it conjured up memories of his senior season and the 72 saves made by Hillies legend Peter Harris (a 1986 New York Islanders draft pick) in a 1-0 shutout of Andover.
“[Pruett] was making saves you wouldn’t expect him to make,” Roberts said.
▪ Marblehead’s Will Shull is the latest player to reach the 100-point milestone for his career. The Headers senior did it in style with four goals and an assist in Monday’s 7-0 win over Swampscott in the Northeastern Conference.
Shull also had two assists Sunday vs. Beverly to put him on the brink of the milestone. He has 13 goals and 11 assists in eight games this season, and sits at 60-41—101 for his career.
▪ Woburn senior Jonathan Surrette also joined the 100-point club with an assist on a Jackson Powers goal in a 3-0 win over Belmont last Wednesday. Surrette and the Tanners are 6-0-1 heading into a rematch Wednesday at Belmont’s Skip Viglirolo Rink.
▪ Brackets and schedules have been revealed for the Catholic Central League Cup, Patriot Cup, and Dual County League Cup, the first of the season-ending league tournaments that are debuting this season during the pandemic.
The Merrimack Valley Conference announced plans for a pair of four-team championship brackets for Seeds 1-4 and 5-8. League tournaments also are planned for the Catholic Conference, Cape Ann, Cape & Islands, South Coast, and South Shore.
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.