Anthony Messuri and Ryan Davies heard the stories over and over again as young hockey players in the backseats of carpools being shuttled to tournaments. The tales about how their fathers — John Messuri and Jack Davies — played together in Hockey Night in Boston in 1983, and the memories they made representing Arlington High School in the annual summer event.
Now the younger Messuri and Davies have one shared story that rivals any in the 45-year history of the Boys Major Showcase.
The pair of Arlington High rising seniors made their own history together on July 28 as Davies found Messuri for the winning goal in double-overtime of Middlesex’s 3-2 championship game triumph against Mass West at Haverhill Valley Forum.
“It’s kind of a legacy that we tried to carry on,” Anthony Messuri said. “We’ve been very close since we were little so it kind of works out that way, right? It’s cool that we could connect and win the tournament for our team, too.”
The tally capped a highly spirited clash where tensions built through 23-minute halves, a 10-minute OT of four-on-four play, and three more minutes of three-on-three action in the second extra session before Messuri’s finisher. John Messuri, the Arlington High coach who guided Middlesex to victory in a rematch of last summer’s title clash, was there on the ice to greet his son, who tossed his gloves high in the air and raced back to the Middlesex pig pile.
“It was a crazy feeling, especially after the game I had going back and forth with them,” said Anthony Messuri, who watched what he called “the longest 90 seconds of my summer” after he took a penalty early in the second overtime. “It was a feeling of mostly relief because the nerves were really going there.”
What may have begun as an individual mission to impress junior hockey and college scouts dotting the Valley Forum stands became an increasingly collective effort to defend a title. The Middlesex team included Arlington, Belmont, Burlington, Reading, Lexington, and Winchester players, some of whom may be rivals all winter, but for a week in the middle of the summer came together to defend their slice of the state’s turf.
“I think from the moment we stepped in the locker room we were pretty close,” Ryan Davies said. “We all know each other from playing against each other so much. I think even in the first game we were all pulling for each other and playing together as a team.”
Coach Messuri said he could see the cohesion building with each game as one season’s ice enemies become another tournament’s embraced teammates — just as it did with him when he joined forces on the Middlesex coaching staff with former Somerville High star Brian Horan, whose son, Matthew, represented Methuen on this year’s Middlesex squad.
“The best part of hockey, especially in this area, is the friendships across towns,” Coach Messuri said. “So many kids become friends through playing in Hockey Night in Boston, or on select teams and stuff. Brian was my No. 1 rival in high school. We couldn’t stand each other. Now we’re coaching together and good friends. It’s the friendships that is what it’s all about.”
The thrilling final capped the five-day Boys Major Showcase. Two decades after Hockey Night was formed in 1972, a Girls Major Showcase — which this year was held at the Essex Sports Center in Middleton — was added, and is now up to 14 teams.
While the landscape has changed from the days when dozens of college and pro scouts would line the boards to watch as some of the country’s best high school players did their best to stand out on the summer ice, Hockey Night has been able to maintain its niche as a draw for many of the better players in Eastern Mass. Players and teams also travel from as far as Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Canada to compete.
“Back when we started — the first 20 years — it was the only thing in town,” Hockey Night managing director Gary Demopolous said. “Now you can play in a tournament every weekend if you wanted to. We’ve been able to stay viable because we offer a good product and do a lot for the kids all year round on our website.”
It was clear through the overtimes on July 28 that the Boys Summer Showcase title still brings with it some serious pride and bragging rights — especially when it came to a few Arlington kids trading scoring bids, hard checks, and diving defensive stops with a Mass West team that included six players from Super 8 finalist Pope Francis of Springfield.
“We’ve won and lost a few games against them,” Anthony Messuri said. “Every game we play them is an absolute battle. It comes down to that we want to win now because if we don’t win we’ll hear about it when we play them in the regular season through chirps. It means a lot to us.”