In its long history as one of the most successful Massachusetts boys’ hockey programs of the last 30 years, Hingham certainly has had its share of championship moments.
The wall behind one end of Pilgrim Skating Arena is testament to the Harbormen’s standing as one of the premier public school teams. Separate banners mark a pair of Division 2 state championships (1992 and ’97), two more in Division 1 (2001, 2015), and the Super 8 crown from 2010 — one of just three public schools to win it all.
But when the Harbormen skated off the ice last Friday at Gallo Arena in Bourne, trophy in hand, it certainly was a feeling as different as the entire 2020-21 season. For the first time in 19 years, the Harbormen added a Patriot League championship to their lengthy resume.
“Playing for a championship, it doesn’t matter what level,” Hingham coach Tony Messina said after the 3-0 win over Marshfield. “You don’t get many opportunities to play for a championship, regardless of where it is.”
Senior captain Paul Forbes centered the top line of senior Evan Corbett and junior Sean Garrity. Senior Lars Osterberg and sophomore Aidan Brazel also had big seasons at forward. As always, Hingham was stout in its end of the ice (18 goals allowed in 15 games) with senior captains Tommy McNally and Ronan Mulkerrin, and juniors Bobby Falvey and Drew Carleton leading the way in front of senior Theo Jacobs and junior Luke Merian in net.
This year’s Patriot Cup was an addition to the sports calendar, as was the case with many other leagues that organized postseason tournaments to help fill the void with no MIAA-sponsored playoffs during the pandemic. Hingham’s victory in the title game certainly was no surprise, as the Harbormen capped a 14-1 campaign and ranked third in the final Globe Top 20 — once again as the top public team in Massachusetts.
As a result of the pandemic, Hingham played a league schedule for just the second time since moving to Division 1 in 1997-98. After spending four seasons as an independent under legendary coach Garrett Reagan, Hingham was part of the original Patriot League in 2001-02 along with archrival Duxbury, Hanover (which won the Division 3 state title in 2001), Scituate, and Rockland.
The Harbormen cruised through their eight-game 2001-02 Patriot schedule unscathed, ultimately earning their first of 16 selections to the Super 8 tournament. But the following season the Patriot dissolved — all five teams going independent — before returning in 2004-05 minus Hingham and Duxbury and with a much different cast overall.
Duxbury eventually rejoined and the league has undergone many changes since, including the addition of Marshfield as a full member this season. Hingham’s return for boys’ hockey (the school has been a regular member in all other sports) pushed the Patriot to 12 teams for 2020-21.
While the Harbormen regularly faced Duxbury and Marshfield in past seasons as an independent, it was the Patriot Cup that allowed them to be reunited with Hanover and Scituate — the top two teams in the Fisher Division. Despite their relative geographic proximity, Hingham had not faced either team since that 2001-02 season.
“The [Patriot League] experience was fun and a bit refreshing in some ways,” Messina said.
It’s uncertain whether the Harbormen will return to their independent schedule next season, or if the Patriot becomes a more permanent home. Either way, they are cherishing everything they got out of this unusual season.
“It was a really special year,” Osterberg said. “Hats off, great season for the boys. I was really proud of us.”
▪ The new “championship week” concept also brought some other historic moments.
Xaverian added a Catholic Conference tournament championship to its regular-season title that was the first for the program since it captured the old Catholic League in 1968.
“It really validates all the work these guys have put in,” Xaverian coach Dave Spinale said.
Dighton-Rehoboth/Seekonk finished an unbeaten season by beating Somerset Berkley for the South Coast Conference tournament championship. It was the first hockey title for either school since 1982, when Seekonk captured the old Southeastern Conference’s Division 2 crown.
Stoneham didn’t win the Middlesex League tournament, but the Spartans finished the regular season atop the Freedom Division, the program’s first of any kind in the ML since 1989.
King Philip also earned a share of the Hockomock League Kelley-Rex title, the first for the Warriors since they shared first place in the Hockomock in 2006.
Archbishop Williams fell short in the Catholic Central League Cup final against St. Mary’s, but the Bishops’ regular-season title was their first since 2013 and ended a run of seven straight for Austin Prep.
▪ The Cape & Islands League will be the last to wrap up the 2020-21 hockey season — at least until the Greater Boston League drops the puck on its delayed schedule sometime in March. But the Atlantic and Lighthouse division brackets already have undergone changes prompted by COVID-19 protocols.
The Atlantic side took a hit Monday when Sandwich and Nauset had the shut down for the season. Sandwich shared the regular-season title with Falmouth, its first since winning the Atlantic Coast League South in 2008. The Blue Knights were slated to face Barnstable, a team they swept in the regular season, and also had played a pair of tight games with Falmouth (1-1 tie, 2-1 loss) in the regular season.
Instead, Barnstable and Falmouth will square off for the third time Wednesday (6:30 p.m. at Falmouth) after splitting regular-season meetings.
In the Lighthouse, both Martha’s Vineyard and Mashpee/Monomoy had to back out Tuesday because of COVID-19 protocols. That leaves three teams in the bracket — St. John Paul II will face Nantucket in the semifinals on Thursday, with the winner to play Dennis-Yarmouth for the championship (TBD).
▪ Sending a stick tap out to Central Mass., where Hudson’s Mike Nanartowich wrapped up a 31-year run behind the Hawks’ bench with Saturday’s victory over Westborough.
One of eight active coaches in the state with more than three decades at the helm, the 1983 Hudson grad won a Central Mass. Division 3 title in his first season with the Hawks in 1991. He added three more from 2010-12, capped by the 2012 Division 3 state championship. Nanartowich, also a past president of the Mass. State Hockey Coaches Association, ends his career with 351 wins.
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.