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Wellesley’s Dawson Luke carries on family hockey tradition

Connecticut College senior hockey defenseman Dawson Luke of Wellesley, a former Belmont Hill captain.

Connecticut College senior hockey defenseman Dawson Luke of Wellesley, a former Belmont Hill captain.

Belmont Hill grad keeps up tradition

Wellesley resident Dawson Luke (inset) can trace his hockey roots to his grandfather, John Copeland, a former star at Harvard who taught him the fundamentals of the game, and to his uncle, Todd Copeland, who skated at the University of Michigan and professionally in the American Hockey League.

All three were defensemen at the Belmont Hill School, where Luke and the elder Copeland were team captains.

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Belmont Hill’s alumni vs. varsity game had been a family reunion: John Copeland (class of 1954), who died in 2010, would sit in the stands and watch his son, Todd (class of 1986), and the other alumni take on Luke (class of 2009) and his teammates.

Luke, a senior at Connecticut College, is having his finest season for the school’s hockey team, nearly doubling his career scoring totals.

“I always imagined myself as a hockey player because of my family background,’’ said the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Luke, the second-leading scorer for the Camels with 6 goals and 6 assists. “I’ve loved the game since I was a youngster shooting pucks in my grandfather’s basement.’’

Luke, who also captained the tennis team at Belmont Hill and played on Independent School League championship teams in both sports, was Connecticut College’s rookie of the year as a freshman.

“His biggest challenge since then has been consistency, although he has always been an important part of our program from day one,’’ said head coach Jim Ward, whose team was 5-10-3 overall and 1-8-3 in the competitive New England Small College Athletic Conference. “But he has really broken out this year in his overall play and as a leader, and I’ll have him out there 25 minutes a game. ‘’

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Ward said Luke has an uncanny ability to fire pucks through a screen better than anyone else on the team. “He’s been a great role model for our younger players,’’ said Ward, “and he deserves All-Conference recognition.’’

Luke said he’s a more relaxed player this season. “I’m enjoying being around the guys. I like to keep things loose and I’m getting more ice time,’’ said Luke, who interned last summer at a New York City financial firm.

“My coach at Belmont Hill, Ken Martin , was awesome at preparing his players for the college game. He’d always say, ‘If you think my practices are tough, wait until you get to college.’ So I was ready.’’

Martin, who also coached Luke’s uncle during his tenure at Belmont Hill, where he was head coach from 1972 through 2011 (retiring with a state-record 707 victories), said Luke handled the puck well for his size, played steady defense, and was a great poke-checker.

“He was so tall, a lot of people didn’t think he was as good a skater as he was, but we have an Olympic-sized rink, which makes players look a bit slower than they are,’’ added Martin, who recalled that in the alumni games, “Todd always wanted to line up next to Dawson and give him the business, but always in good fun.’’

Martin said Todd Copeland always had sage advice for the varsity after the alumni game, and John Copeland was a junior varsity hockey coach at Belmont Hill in the early 1980s.

“John was a great person who cared about our school and wanted to give back. We have a classroom here named for the Copeland family,’’ added Martin, who now coaches Belmont Hill’s eighth-grade team and is in his 42d year as a Latin teacher at the independent school.

Luke’s grandfather, who grew up in Belmont and moved to Wellesley, was known for his tenacity, fierce body checks, and hard slap shot with the Crimson. He also played in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

“Dad’s Belmont Hill and Harvard teammates Bill  and Bob Cleary  were like uncles to me,’’ recalled Todd Copeland, who played for Red Berenson  at Michigan, and was voted by the Central Collegiate Hockey Association coaches as the player with the hardest shot.

“So Dawson has had some great hockey influences in his life. He also had talent, a good shot, and saw the ice well. I didn’t have to give him much advice over the years because he always had good coaching.

“Dawson could never get enough hockey, always wanting to play. Hockey is in his blood, and I’m happy to see what he’s accomplished in college as a player and as a person.’’

Pitcher Salvadore lines up early for BC

Hopkinton’s Tim Salvadore, who starred on the mound at Phillips Academy in Andover as a freshman last spring, has verbally committed to play at Boston College.

He starred last summer for the East Cobb U-16 Astros, a youth team out of Marietta, Ga., that won the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series and Impact Baseball’s AAU national title.

A 6-foot-3, 185-ound righty, Salvadore held Andover opponents to a .127 batting average, and posted a 3-1 record and 1.03 earned run average en route to the team’s Central New England Prep championship.

Campus notables

Saint Michael’s College senior hockey captain Josh Geary  of Wellesley (Phillips Academy) recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist in his team’s 5-1 victory over the University of New England last Friday. . . . . Westfield State University freshman Naloti Palma  (Westborough High) was named the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Women’s Field Athlete of the Week for the second consecutive week after taking first place in the shot put with a school-record toss of 42 feet 4 inches at last Saturday’s Springfield College Invitational.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.

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