The BC High hockey team was a minute from falling short of its preseason goal last March 18 at TD Garden. With time ticking away, the Eagles trailed Pope Francis, 1-0, in the Super 8 final. Something clicked down the stretch, however, and a Joe Dragon equalizer led to a Maverick Woods winner in overtime to earn BC High a 2-1 triumph and its first Super 8 crown since 2007.
Dragon and Woods, along with seven other seniors, are gone. Seven of the Eagles’ nine Catholic Conference All-Stars either graduated or transferred. And if the remaining players in the locker room could have it their way, the memories of their win would be gone, too. They don’t want any of their success from the recent past to distract them from another title run.
“We’ve all honestly come to an agreement that that’s in the past now,” said senior defenseman P.J. Donahue. “That means nothing to us at this point. We’re starting with a clean slate. We try not to stand on the shoulders of the people who came before us. That’s what makes us such a good team, and we’re going to continue that this year.”
While the Eagles, the top team in the Globe’s first Top 20 poll of the season, certainly lost quite a few key cogs, they return a strong contingent of underclassmen from last year’s 19-4-1 team. Spearheading that attack is a top line of three talented brothers, centered by returning Globe All-Scholastic and Super Teamer Thomas Kramer.
The 6-foot-1-inch senior led the Eagles in scoring with 12 goals and 25 assists last year while primarily playing alongside Dragon and Danny O’Connell. This year, the Bridgewater resident will get a chance to work with his twin brothers, sophomores Peter and Joseph.
“We all know what we’re doing with the puck at all times,” Thomas said. “I can give one of them a look and they know where the puck is going, where to be, and when they should be there. I think that’s the biggest key. We all have the same idol, which is our brother [Patrick]. We all grew up watching him play and now he’s at the next level [at Merrimack College].
“We all kind of play the same type of style game and we have good chemistry and think the game well, so I enjoy playing with them.”
The chemistry is palpable to the rest of the team.
“You hear people talk about the Sedins [Daniel and Henrik, who who retired at the end of the 2018 NHL season] and it’s almost like twin telepathy with those two,” said Donahue. “The Kramers have that same look on the ice. My favorite part about them is that they’re tough. I think it’s really cool that they stick up for one another on the ice.”
BC High coach John Flaherty hopes Thomas’s varsity presence helps his twin brothers settle into their offensive roles.
“Thomas, I would argue, is one of the best that Massachusetts high school hockey has to offer,” said Flaherty. “Playing with him, he’s only going to make the twins better and it allows us to balance things off and put Matt Lakus in a role with some other guys.”
With Peter and Joseph playing alongside their older brother, it will allow Lakus, the team’s lone returning Catholic Conference All-Star, and fellow senior captain C.J. Martin to center their own lines and provide additional offensive depth. A balanced attack is going to be crucial for the Eagles while Donahue works a young group of blue liners up to speed and seniors Chase Congdon and Connor Flavin pick up netminding duties after Luke Garrity transferred to St. Sebastian’s.
“Our blue line is going to be young, but I like the group we have back there,” said Flaherty. “They’re talented and they’re skilled. They’re going to take a little time to get up to speed and get some experience, but I like what they bring to the table as of now.”
“I think the biggest part is just every day at practice trying to get everyone better,” added Kramer. “A lot of the D and a couple of the forwards, they practiced with us last year, so they know the pace of play and what it takes to be successful. And that’s all we try to teach young kids. When everyone is going at their best, that’s when we’re going to have our most success.”
■ Perennial power Hingham has some newfound company in the ranks of Division 1 independents this winter.
While the dissolution of the three-team Catholic West league won’t have much of an impact on the schedules of former members Pope Francis, St. John’s (Shrewsbury), and St. Peter-Marian, the fourth school joining the independent ranks represents a seismic shift for the program.
Shrewsbury, after winning back-to-back Division 3 state championships, has elevated from the Roy Conference in the Division 3 Central region to an independent Division 1 North program.
The Colonials played four games against Division 1 competition last season, en route to a 20-2-2 record and its fifth state title since 1999. That number jumps to seven this winter, with one game already in the books: a 2-0 loss vs. Framingham on Dec. 12. Shrewsbury played against nine teams from Eastern Massachusetts prior to the postseason last winter, while that number jumps to 16 this year.
■ There’s a new Cape & Islands League for hockey this winter, with four programs part of the inaugural season: Nantucket, the Mashpee/Monomoy co-op, the Cape Cod Tech/Cape Cod Academy co-op, and Martha’s Vineyard.
The first three schools had competed as Division 3 South independents — Nantucket for just one season, after previously being an associate member of the Mayflower League — while the Vineyard defected from the Eastern Athletic Conference.
■ Following six decades as a member of the Bay State Conference, Norwood debuts as a member of a newly-aligned Tri-Valley League this winter.
The Mustangs are set to compete in the TVL Large Division, where coach Chuck Allen will seek to lead Norwood to its first winning record since 2014. The Mustangs were 0-19-1 in 2015-16, but since Allen took over, Norwood has responded with 18 and 19-point campaigns, respectively, in the subsequent two seasons.
“I get ready for the season no matter what league we’re in,” Allen said. “It doesn’t really make a difference to me.”
With the Mustangs gone — as well as Dedham, which had left for the TVL last season — the BSC realigned into geographic-based divisions. Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton North and Brookline, the league’s northern-most schools, comprise the new Carey Division, while the southern-most schools in Needham, Milton, Walpole, Braintree and Weymouth form the new Herget Division.
■ One new co-op team popped up in Eastern Mass. for this season, as the Dover-Sherborn and Weston programs merged. Tom Bourque, who coached D-S last season, is the team’s head coach.
The team is competing in the TVL Small Division, where D-S houses its other teams. Weston’s departure from the Dual County/Merrimack Valley Division 3 league leaves the group with six teams.
Games to watch
Saturday, Hanover vs. Duxbury (3 p.m., The Bog) — After seeing its unbeaten season come apart in the Division 3 Championship a season ago, No. 18 Hanover looks to jump out to a 2-0 start in its annual meeting with Division 1-foe No. 20 Duxbury.
Saturday, Norwood vs. Westwood (4:15 p.m., Rodman Arena) — After 60 years in the Bay State Conference, Norwood debuts in the Tri-Valley League against Westwood — which is debuting a new coach, Matt Sebet, after Mike Welby stepped down following 17 years at the helm.
Saturday, Lincoln-Sudbury vs. Concord-Carlisle (5 p.m., NESC) — The annual Warriors 4 Warriors, Patriots 4 Patriots game played in recognition of the late 1st Lt. Scott Milley, a 2005 graduate of L-S who died in the line of duty in 2010.
Saturday, St. John’s Prep vs. Hingham, (6 p.m., Essex Sports Center) — Two perennial Super 8 contenders, No. 3 Hingham looks to start out 2-0 on the road against the No. 6 Prep in its season opener.
Sunday, Scituate vs. Norwell (2 p.m., Hobomock Arena) — The Old Oaken Bucket championship is on the line when these two neighboring rivals play in a nonleague game.
Wednesday, BC High vs. Arlington (6:15 p.m., Clark Athletic Center) — Top-ranked BC High plays its first in-state game of the season against No. 4 Arlington in a battle of the last two Super 8 champions.
Wednesday, Waltham vs. Marshfield (7 p.m., Veterans Memorial Rink) — In a rematch of last winter’s Division 1 State Championship game, No. 10 Marshfield looks to exact revenge over No. 14 Waltham on the road.
Correspondent Jake Levin also contributed to this story. Dan McLoone can be reached at email@example.com.