MARLBOROUGH — The annual Garrett Reagan Summit made its return to the New England Sports Center on Sunday after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID pandemic. Sponsored by the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association, the annual event — which began in 2008 and is named for the late longtime boys’ hockey coach at Hingham — serves as the unofficial faceoff for the high school hockey season.
This year’s event drew 66 MIAA boys’ and girls’ hockey teams. Here are some takeaways:
▪ Following a year of abbreviated schedules and tightened COVID protocols, for the most part there was a sense of a return to normalcy throughout the sprawling NESC facility. Coaches and players wore masks, as dictated by MIAA guidelines, but spectators were free to bounce between any of the seven rinks that hosted action throughout the day.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen with the numbers, with schools being hesitant about [COVID],” said Waltham boys’ coach John Maguire, who has been the main organizer of the Summit since the beginning.
“The only thing that’s different is we usually have some sort of workshop. Again, because of protocol, we decided not to do that. But it’s worked out great.”
Although the MIAA approved a rule change that will allow teams to play 17-minute periods beginning this season, the Summit followed its usual format of two 15-minute halves.
▪ Maguire and others acknowledged longtime NESC general manager Wes Tuttle, who died in September 2020, but was instrumental over the years in making sure the Summit was a success.
“We miss Wes Tuttle. It’s not the same without him,” Maguire said. “But the rink management has been great in terms of letting us run it.”
▪ The 66 participating teams is only a slight drop from the 68 that took part in the Summit in 2019, and not much further off the all-time high of 72 teams from 2018.
Included in Sunday’s lineup were 14 girls’ programs, matching the most to participate in the event since 2009.
▪ Four girls’ teams — Central Catholic, Malden Catholic, St. Joseph Prep, and Stoughton — were skating in the Summit for the first time, while Pope Francis had previously attended when it was known as Springfield Cathedral.
Despite having only 10 skaters, Central Catholic put eight on the scoresheet in its 6-1 win over Stoughton. Kailin Sullivan, Cecilia Sinopoli, and Megan Malolepszy each scored twice for the Raiders.
On the boys’ side, five teams made their debuts — East/West Bridgewater, Foxborough, Gardner, Hopedale/Millis, and Winchester. The Summit also featured the overall debut of St. Paul following the merger of St. Peter-Marian and Holy Name.
▪ The Waltham boys’ and girls teams are among several that have been part of the Reagan Summit since its inception. The others are: Braintree, Burlington, Duxbury, Hingham, Malden Catholic, Marlborough, Marshfield, Newton North, Newton South, Pope Francis (ex-Springfield Cathedral), Reading and Xaverian.
▪ Marshfield actually had two teams take the ice Sunday. In one of the few bumps at this year’s Summit, Bishop Stang was forced to withdraw late last week because of COVID protocols, so Marshfield coach Dan Connolly sent many of his younger players to Rink 5 to match up with North Middlesex while a half-hour earlier the rest of the varsity team was in Rink 3 against St. John’s of Shrewsbury.
“It was great to get back to some of the stuff we’re used to doing, the team-building,” said Connolly, whose team had scrimmaged Darien (Conn.) the previous day and stayed Saturday night in Connecticut, before stopping off in Central Mass. on the way back the South Shore.
The Rams tied both matchups Sunday — 1-1 vs. St. John’s, and 0-0 vs. North Middlesex.
▪ One of the marquee matchups took place in Rink 4, where Lincoln-Sudbury and Hanover squared off in a battle of teams that were declared co-state champions in 2020 when the state finals were canceled at the start of the pandemic.
Hanover, which shared the Division 3 crown two years ago, showed it still will be one of the teams to watch this season with a 3-0 victory. Max DaSilva scored twice for the Hawks, who also got a goal from Quinn Brown.
After sharing the D2 crown with Canton two years ago, Lincoln-Sudbury moves up to Division 1 in this year’s alignment. The Warriors will be among those chasing 2020 co-champs Arlington and Pope Francis, which both posted solid wins Sunday. Arlington blanked St. Mary’s, 2-0, and Pope Francis scored a solid 4-0 win over Duxbury, which drops to D2 this year under new coach Mike Flaherty (previously at Rockland).
▪ Of the five games played in Rink 1 — NESC’s main arena — the opener between Xaverian and Hingham featured perhaps the best finish of the entire day. Captain Bobby Falvey fired home a power-play shot from the point with 23 seconds left, giving the Harbormen a 3-2 victory.
Nonetheless, Xaverian coach Dave Spinale saw a lot of positives as his veteran team prepares to defend its Catholic Conference championship from a season ago.
“Definitely a learning experience,” Spinale said. “We had good compete level. Hingham is a very good team, but I liked how hard we worked.”
▪ With teams still less than a week removed from the start of practices, for most coaches the Summit was a welcome opportunity to get back into the normal preseason routine following a year away.
“Wins and losses aren’t necessarily as important in scrimmages as it is to find out who you are, and what you are and what you need to work on,” Malden Catholic boys’ coach Chris Kuchar said. “I’m just truly happy to get these kids back in the rink, back in the locker room, team bonding. We didn’t get to have spectators in our building last year. I’m just so happy for these guys to be able to get back, play high school hockey, and get back to some semblance of normalcy, whatever that normalcy is.”
Jim Clark can be reached at email@example.com.