Standing behind the glass at New England Sports Center in December, 2021, Pavit Mehra and Dylan Mansur intently watched the action on the ice, their friends skating for Hopkinton against Medfield in a Tri-Valley League contest. Medfield prevailed in overtime, 4-3, but Mehra and Mansur longed to be part of it.
“I want to run behind the bench right now and yell, ‘Put me in, Coach!’” Mehra recalled saying.
This season, as seniors, Mehra and Mansur have returned to play for the hometown Hillers, and have emerged as catalysts in Hopkinton’s 11-3 start after a 10-10 finish in 2021-22.
Both played as freshmen for former coach Chris MacPherson, with Mehra setting the program record for points by a freshman. Hopkinton lost in the Division 3 state final, but Mehra returned as a sophomore for Hopkinton’s COVID-shortened season. Mansur, meanwhile, opted to attend the Boston Hockey Academy.
‘He’s got a presence about him, a positive presence, that really helps up and down our lineup.’
Hopkinton boys' hockey coach Scott Hayes, on high-scoring senior forward Pavit Mehra
Mansur was back at Hopkinton as a junior, but played juniors with the Islanders Hockey Club. Mehra, who has taken courses online through Laurel Springs since fifth grade and boasts a 3.55 GPA, continued to be home-schooled while playing in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) for the South Shore Kings, and later, the Boston Junior Bruins. Mansur skated for the Junior Bruins in the fall.
Before and after shifts working at Stop It Goaltending, Mehra frequently crossed paths with Hiller captain-elects Joe Carrazza, one of his neighbors, and Charlie Purpura.
Seeing an opportunity to string together wins with a roster with 12 seniors, Mehra and Mansur gave considerable thought about teaming up for Hopkinton one final season.
“We thought we could make a difference if we joined up,” said Mansur. “It took a lot of talking, it was going to be either of us doing it or neither.”
Added Mehra, “We sat down and said, ‘Are we going to do this?’ We agreed if we both [did] it, and everyone’s coming back, we’d be willing to [come back]. We had a good group coming back, so we’d be there for another year.”
The results have been palpable. With great anticipation, and slick edgework to manipulate space, Mehra has racked up 25 goals and 20 assists in 14 games. Mansur anchors the blueline, keeping opponents at bay with fluid hips and a potent stick-check.
In the year away from the Hillers, Mehra put on 13 pounds of muscle. He had starting skating at 2, venturing out on a neighbor’s backyard rink with buckle-up skates. With the encouragement of Larue Renfroe, owner of New England Sports Center, a two-story, eight-rink ice-skating facility located in Marlborough, Mehra played for the Demons Hockey Club and Minuteman Flames.
Second-year Hopkinton boys’ hockey coach Scott Hayes lauded Mehra’s leadership, on and off the ice.
“He’s got a presence about him, a positive presence, that really helps up and down our lineup,” Hayes said. “He gives the guys someone to look up to and someone, somebody who’s doing things the right way as an example.”
The Hillers have outscored opponents, 77-24, having fun playing a dynamic style, with the players joyously playing for one another and their hometown.
“He said, ‘Dad, I’m going to be a senior once,’” recalled Sumeet Mehra, Pavit’s father. “ There’s just something about playing for your town. This time is not going to come back.”
▪ Only two teams in Massachusetts remain unblemished in the loss column: Lynnfield (12-0-1) and Essex Tech (14-0-1), a pair of Division 3 contenders.
On Wednesday night, Essex Tech trailed Northeast, 3-2, in Commonwealth Athletic Conference play before junior forward Logan Casey struck for a pair of goals in the third period to keep the good times rolling for the seventh-year varsity outfit.
Under the direction of Mark Leonard, the longtime Peabody coach (24 seasons) and 2021 inductee to the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association (MSHCA) Hall of Fame, Essex Tech may just be scratching the surface of its potential. The team’s five leading scorers are underclassmen, including Casey (14 goals, 22 assists for 36 points) and sophomore center Brady Leonard, the coach’s son, who checks in with 16-19—35 totals.
“They’ve bought in to working hard and the team aspect,” Mark Leonard said. “The bottom line is, they’re pretty talented.”
Leonard, in his fourth season behind the bench, led the Hawks to their first state tournament win last winter, a 1-0 overtime victory over Bedford in the Round of 32, as well as a state vocational championship. A number of the Essex Tech players have been skating together for years, products of the North Shore Coyotes youth program, with Leonard as coach.
Somerset Berkley (12-1) suffered its first loss Wednesday, 3-2 vs. Dartmouth, becoming the last team south of the Mass. Turnpike to lose this winter.
▪ Paul Todesca Jr. and the Xaverian hockey team are once again spearheading a “Hockey Fights Cancer” weekend at the Canton Ice House. The sixth annual event will feature five games — headlined by the Hawks playing host to St. John’s Prep in a rematch of last year’s Division 1 state final.
Todesca Jr., an assistant coach under Dave Spinale at Xaverian, is executive director of the Reo Todesca Memorial Foundation, named in honor of his mother who passed away from lung cancer in December 2017. Over the last five years, the foundation has raised more than $250,000 to fight cancer.
The event begins Friday night, when the Curry College men host Salve Regina at 7 p.m. before four games Saturday: Stoughton vs. Old Rochester (girls), 1 p.m.; Curry vs. University of New England (women’s), 3 p.m.; Xaverian vs. St. John’s Prep, 5:10 p.m.; and Westwood vs. Medfield (boys), 7:10 p.m.
To make a donation to the Reo Todesca Memorial Foundation, visit www.reosfoundation.org/donate.
Games to watch
Saturday, Nantucket vs. Martha’s Vineyard (at Martha’s Vineyard Arena, 2 p.m.) — With Arctic conditions expected, perhaps the teams could skate across Nantucket Sound in a pivotal Cape & Islands Lighthouse battle.
Saturday, St. John’s Prep vs. Xaverian (at Canton Ice House, 5:10 p.m.) — The Catholic Conference rivals meet for the second time this season following their battle in the Division 1 state final last March at TD Garden; following up their win on Causeway Street, the Eagles beat the Hawks, 4-1, on Jan. 18 in Hathorne.
Sunday, Hingham vs. Reading and Arlington vs. Belmont (at O’Brien Rink, noon and 2 p.m.) — The semifinals of the Ed Burns Coffee Pot Invitational — Doherty Division consists of the three public programs to win a Division 1A (Super 8) title in the Harbormen, Rockets and Spy Ponders.
Wednesday, Norwood vs. Medfield, Wednesday (at Pirelli Veterans Rink, 6 p.m.) — The Mustangs are one of the hottest teams in the state, with eight straight wins following a 1-4-1 start, but the Warriors (12-2) were responsible for one of those early-season setbacks in Tri-Valley League play.
Wednesday, Catholic Memorial vs. Hingham (at Pilgrim Arena, 6 p.m.) — It’s No. 2 vs. No. 3 in the latest Globe Top 20 poll in one of the top nonleague rivalries in the state.
Correspondent Jake Levin contributed to this story.
Cam Kerry can be reached at email@example.com.