Even before the puck was dropped Wednesday night at Stoneham Arena, it was a victory for the Cambridge Matignon School and its storied boys’ hockey program.
Such a thought would have been unfathomable from the 1970s into the early years of this century, when “Marty’s Mohawks” were one of the state’s true hockey powers under the legendary Marty Pierce. But given the more recent history of the program, simply having a team back on the ice for the first time in three seasons puts things into perspective.
“These young kids that are 15 or 16, it’s kind of lost on them a little bit,” said first-year coach DJ Pinkham. “They don’t realize what a big deal it is to play for Matignon.”
Pinkham certainly knows. A former goalie at Arlington Catholic (2005), he was on the opposing side for the end of the Matignon dynasty, but also saw the beginning of the lean years. Matignon posted just four winning seasons from 2005 through a winless 2018-19 campaign.
“Basically, two years ago we were down to five hockey players returning,” said Matignon athletic director Mike Lahiff. “The writing was on the wall, we just weren’t going to make it on our own.”
Matignon played the last two seasons as part of a co-operative team with Revere and Malden. Lahiff praised colleagues Frank Shea (Revere) and Charlie Conefrey (Malden), as well as coach Joe Ciccarello, for giving Matignon players a home.
“It was a tough decision [to co-op], purely a function of numbers,” headmaster Tim Welsh said.
At the same time, the goal all along was to get Matignon back as a solo entity.
“Matignon’s identity has always been hockey,” Lahiff said. “For us to not have boys’ hockey on our own, was tough for our school’s reputation and image.”
Matignon also hosts students for the Boston Hockey Academy and its Imperials programs, but otherwise there is no crossover with the MIAA program. Pinkham had done some coaching with the Imperials, and says president Dennis Franczak recommended him last spring to Welsh and Lahiff.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of lead time,” Pinkham said.
Matignon has just 14 players to start the season, but Pinkham said the school will take baby steps with the program while trying to build it back up. Gone, for now, are Catholic Central showdowns with the likes of AC, Austin Prep and Archbishop Williams in favor of a more manageable schedule.
It has always been a tough balancing act with an alumni base that thirsts for the glory days — Matignon has six state championships and put the likes of Shawn McEachern, Steve Leach and Niko Dimitrakos into the NHL.
“It’s a hard pill for a lot of alumni to take in, where the hockey piece is right now,” admitted Lahiff, himself a graduate in 1975, the year of the first state championship under Pierce. “Those were glory days, fantastic days.”
A total rebranding effort by the school — new logos and colors, though even Welsh still refers to just “Matignon” in conversations — is another part of the ongoing change.
Matignon is 0-4 following Wednesday’s loss to Bedford, but flashed its potential in a season-opening 6-4 loss to Lowell in the Cobblestone Tournament. The team has just four seniors: left wing Daniel Liu, defensemen Thomas Barros and Santiago Del Rio Ipuz, and goalie Justin Bamberger — who is from St. Louis and originally came to Cambridge to play for the Imperials. Junior defenseman Quinn McNamara, and sophomore forwards Matthew Poirier, Derek DeJon and defenseman-turned-backup goalie Dillon Yelmokas are among those who previously skated with Revere/Malden.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Paul Magalhaes (LW), Michael Logiudice (C) and Alex Fucile (RW), sophomore Will Connors (LW), and freshmen right wings Allan White and Thomas Lewis-Bowen.
Pinkham, who is being assisted by former Austin Prep and Merrimack defenseman Aaron Titcomb, expects brighter days ahead as he gets the word out about the revived program, while at the same time trying to temper expectations.
“When I look at, if you don’t have a team or it’s performing badly, it hurts your legacy,” Pinkham said. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”
Added Welsh: “It’s great to be back in so many ways.”
As the puck slowly made its way into the empty net at the other end of the ice, Jack Perry’s first thought was to be excited that Waltham had scored the tying goal in an early season nonleague showdown with Marshfield.
Then the Hawks senior goalie, and many others throughout Waltham’s Veterans Memorial Rink, started to process exactly what had happened Monday night. A delayed penalty, the other goalie leaves the ice, and an errant pass by the attacking team inadvertently finds its way into the opposing goal.
“I know somebody on our team had to get credited for the goal,” Perry recalled.
As it turned out, Perry was the last to touch the puck, thwarting a Marshfield rush that drew the penalty, steering the shot into the corner.
“As I skated to the bench to celebrate, I started putting it together — ‘Hey, I was the last person to touch the puck,’ " Perry said. “I was more focused on the team at that point, but I’ll admit, it was a nice feeling to hear over the [public address] system my name being announced.”
The “goalie goal” is a rare phenomenon, though it has happened at least three other times in MIAA games in recent seasons — including in 2020 when Wellesley’s Drew Hubbard fired it the length of the ice himself with the opposing goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
“It has crossed my mind,” Perry said. “Every goalie has thought of the situation, late in the game, icing the puck, that’s every goalie’s dream.”
Instead, he’ll settle for the “other way” an exclusive club of goal stoppers who have become goal scorers. Perry has the puck, and forever the memory of what he calls “just a crazy event.”
“It’s a nice little moment that reflects why I play the game,” he said. “Seeing my name on the scoresheet is a dream come true.”
▪ With their 9-4 victory over East Boston last Saturday at Connery Rink, the Lynn Jets snapped a 27-game losing streak dating back to March 2019. The Jets (1-2) — a co-op of Classical, English and Lynn Tech under first-year coach Brian Boisson — got hat tricks from seniors Jaylen Porter and Gavin Kennedy.
Games to watch
Monday, Austin Prep vs. St. Mary’s, 5 p.m. (Malden Valley Forum) — The opening matchup of the Christie Serino Christmas Classic (with host Malden Catholic and Franklin) is one that counts in the Catholic Central standings.
Tuesday, Walpole at Norwood, 2 p.m. (Skating Club of Boston) — The neighboring schools, one-time Bay State Conference rivals, now are both in Division 2 in the MIAA alignments, so plenty is at stake.
Tuesday, Arlington at BC High, 6:45 p.m. (UMass Boston) — It’s a top-10 matchup of teams that won or shared the last four Super 8 championships (2017-20).
Wednesday, Pope Francis at Braintree, 6 p.m. (Zapustas Rink, Randolph) — The host Wamps will get a good barometer against the powerful Cardinals in another top-10 matchup.
Wednesday, Norwell at Hanover, 6:10 p.m. (Hobomock Arena, Pembroke) — They won’t meet in the postseason, but the South Shore rivals figure to be near the top of their respective divisions all season.
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.