On January 13th, the Falmouth boy’s hockey team watched as conference foe Marshfield blanked the Clippers, 3-0, in their own building. While the loss was the first of the year for Falmouth, it put the Clippers at a disadvantage in the Atlantic Coast League standings. Their best chance to jump back into the conference’s top spot would be to win at Marshfield’s home rink, something the Clippers had not accomplished since 2010.
For No. 19 Falmouth (10-2-3) to pull off something that hadn’t been done since their seniors were in the fifth grade, the Clippers would need a total team effort – starting with their explosive offense. After the graduation of last year’s top two scorers, Matt Schreiner and Patrick Coyne two underclassmen have taken over the offensive reigns this season: freshman J P Turner and sophomore Nick Champani .
“These kids are playing on a big stage, they’re the heart and soul of our team, and they’re getting it done. It’s fun to watch,” said Clippers coach Paul Moore , a 1981 graduate of Falmouth High School.
“[They bring] an unbelievable skill set. Champani is a crafty kid; J P with his head and his hands, he’s tough to play against. He moves the puck well, [and] he plays well without the puck, which is important.”
The freshman-sophomore tandem has been a catalyst for the Falmouth offense, with Turner (14-14—28) ranking first in goals, assists and points, while Champani (9-7—16) ranks right behind him in all three categories.
In the first period of the Clippers’ toughest road contest to date at Marshfield, both Turner and Champani netted early goals to put Falmouth ahead.
“We’ve always been friends because we’re just a year apart,” said Turner, whose father John is an assistant coach for the Clippers. “I take a lot out of [Champani’s] game to work on mine because he’s a great player and he brings a good offensive skill set to the game to produce a lot of scoring opportunities.”
“When you have the underclassmen as the core of the talent and the upperclassmen as the hard workers, it makes a good balance,” said Clippers’ senior captain Christopher Parkinson. “Because it really instills that sort of grit and determination in the underclassmen.”
Moore described his captain as the best defenseman on the team, someone who leads both on and off the ice not just with his words but also his actions. Moore credits his team’s overall success to not only their on-ice skill, but also to the character of the Clippers, beginning with his seven seniors.
Character has been a time-tested trait for Falmouth. On Dec. 22, 2016, the Clippers suffered the painful loss of seniors James Lavin and Owen Higgins, who were killed in a car accident on the way home from hockey practice. The tragedy galvanized the entire Falmouth community, with support pouring in from all over the Commonwealth and the country in the weeks after the accident.
In the face of their bereavement , the Clippers responded with 12 wins in 18 games and a trip to the Division 1 South quarterfinals.
While that season may be a distant memory, the memory of Lavin and Higgins continues to endure..
“There are big pictures of [Lavin and Higgins]in our locker room, they’re always in our heart and we’ll never forget them,” Moore said. “The town of Falmouth and how they came together, and rallied around this team — and there’s a lot of kids in that locker room who were on that team who know what happened and how the community reacted towards us — it was an unbelievable thing.”
“The hockey community is a small community, they’re well-connected, [and] they support each other through thick and thin,” said Marshfield coach Dan Connolly . “It’s more than just a hockey game, it’s about a community being there for each other.”
Patches adorn Falmouth’s jerseys as a solemn remembrance of the lives gone too soon.
Black ribbons inscribed with the names “Lav” and “Higgy” are flanked by the numbers 10 and 19 on the top right chest of each Falmouth sweater, with smaller stickers in the same pattern centered on the back of each player’s helmet.
“I get chills just thinking about it,” Moore said. “It was nice to flip the page and move on, but we’re never moving on without them, they’re always with us.”
With a new season is in full swing, and the Clippers gearing up for the state tournament, Moore and his team have set their sights on the road ahead. .
At Marshfield’s home rink in Pembroke on Wednesday night, the Clippers extended their lead to 3-0 after junior assistant captain Nick Kansella scored on a breakaway tally. Junior goaltender Kevin Duarte closed the door with his second shutout of the season, turning aside three consecutive last-chance bids by the Rams (7-4-4, 5-1-1 Atlantic Coast League..
In the process, Duarte elevated his save percentage to .906 and lowered his goals-against average to 1.81 in the process.
When the final horn sounded on Falmouth’s 3-0 shutout victory in Marshfield, the Clippers hurried onto the ice in excitement after realizing they had just vaulted past the Rams for first place in the Atlantic Coast League after improving to 10-2-3 overall, 6-1-0 conference.
After their first win at Hobomock Ice Arena in recent memory, all that stands now between the Clippers and the league crown is a win over Sandwich early this month.
“We play a tough schedule, we’ve got Barnstable Saturday night, we’ve got [Catholic Memorial] on Wednesday, it doesn’t get any easier,” Moore said. “The kids are embracing the challenge, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
■ Top-ranked Central Catholic remains the lone Division 1 undefeated team (15-0) in its quest for a perfect season with a 3-1 win over Malden Catholic on Monday night. Junior goalie Matt Pasquale (North Andover) finished with 24 saves . . . On Feb. 10, St. John’s Prep will posthumously honor 1st Lt. Derek Hines, an Eagle from the Class of 1999, and will retire his No. 23 jersey during a ceremony prior to Prep’s game against Newburyport in the 10th annual Derek Hines ’99 Memorial Game. Hines was killed on September 1, 2005 while serving with the Army Rangers in Afghanistan.
■ Pariot League frontrunner Hanover also remained undefeated (14-0-1). Senior captain Connor Morris leads the Patriot League Fisher Division with 39 points (20-19–39) . . . Second-ranked BC High captured the Catholic Conference title with a 5-0 win over No. 15 Catholic Memorial on Sunday and has qualified for the Division 1 tournament . . . No. 7 Burlington (13-2) is now 9-0 against Middlesex League opponents after a 4-1 win over No. 8 Arlington on Wednesday. The Red Devils have won four straight, all against Middlesex rivals . . . No. 14 Xaverian has not won a game since a 3-0 win over Catholic Memorial on Jan. 13. Since the victory, the Hawks have gone 0-4-2.
Players of the week
Tyler Buonopane, North Andover – Now second in points for the Knights, Buonopane (9-14–23) netted half of North Andover’s goals on Wednesday with four goals in an 8-5 win over Tewksbury. The senior captain is already poised to surpasshis point total (24) from a year ago.
Kevin Chandler, Hanover – The Indians owe much of their success this season to their junior starting goalie. Chandler has posted a .961 save percentage with three shutouts in nine starts and earned his third shutout on Wednesday with a 4-0 win over Plymouth South.
Robbie Kornack, Hingham – Recording his fourth shutout of the season, the senior goalie led the sixth-ranked Harbormen to a 3-0 win over No. 20 Reading on Monday night.
Conor Purtell, Danvers – Purtell led the Falcons (12-1) with two goals in a 4-3 win over Beverly on Wednesday night. The senior captain and forward is now just two points away from reaching 100 for his career.
Anthony Sarno, Blue Hills – In Saturday night’s 7-1 rout over Diman, the Warriors (11-5-1) were again led by their senior captain and forward from Avon who finished with six points in the win. Sarno leads the Mayflower League with 57 points (26-31–57).
Games to watch
Saturday, St. John’s Prep at Catholic Memorial, 4 p.m. – Coming off a 4-3 win over Bishop Guertin (N.H.) on Monday, the fourth-ranked Eagles (7-3-2) take on a Catholic Conference rival in the No. 15 Knights (5-7-2), who battled to a 2-2 tie with with Xaverian on Wednesday.
Saturday, Reading at Arlington, 6 p.m. – This Middlesex League matchup features the No. 10 Spy Ponders (8-4-1) and the No. 20 Rockets (7-5-1), who look to break a two-game losing streak.
Sunday, Pope Francis at BC High, 12 p.m. – The second-ranked Eagles (10-3-1) battle the No. 3 Cardinals (11-1-2) in a rematch of the Pete Frates Winter Classic on Dec. 30, in which the teams tied, 3-3.
Monday, Franklin at Hingham, 6 p.m. – A pair of top 10 teams in the ninth-ranked Panthers (11-1-3) take on the sixth-ranked Harbormen (7-3-4), who are riding a three-game winning streak.
Wednesday, Central Catholic at Waltham, 7 p.m. – The No. 12 Hawks have climbed into the Globe’s Top 20 for this first time this season with a 10-3-2 record and will meet a familiar foe in the top-ranked Raiders (15-0). These two teams met back on Jan. 10, with Central topping Waltham, 5-2.Dave Souza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Correspondent Chris Bokum also contributed to this story. He can be reached at email@example.com.