The North Quincy boys’ hockey team won three games a year ago. In recent years, the Red Raiders have been an afterthought in Patriot League play.
But Wednesday night, North Quincy was locked up in a 1-1 tie through two periods of physical play against Duxbury, ranked 17th in this week’s Globe Top 20.
A four-goal third from the visiting Dragons resulted in a 5-2 defeat, but the energy inside the Quincy North Arena was palpable throughout.
Just past the halfway point of the regular season, both North Quincy and Quincy are on pace to post their best records in years. And the City of Quincy is taking notice.
“I would be lying to you if I said I expected this at all,” said 10-year North Quincy coach Matt Gibbons.
“I guess maybe I underestimated the group of kids I had returning and how much they just connected. Last year we had a decent-sized senior class of seven guys. All good kids. I love all of them. Just for whatever reason, it didn’t click last year. It was just one of those years where everybody wasn’t on the same page.
“They’re all on the same page and clicking this year.”
Gibbons has guided the Red Raiders to a 9-3 start, already tripling the win total from last year’s 3-16-1 squad.
Quincy sits at 9-2 after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Bridgewater-Raynham — which includes a 3-2 win over North Quincy Dec. 26th in the Quincy Youth Christmas Tournament semifinals.
The Presidents are just three victories shy of topping their 11-8-2 performance last year, which ended with a 3-1 loss to Plymouth South in the first round of the Division 2 South tourney.
“Last year we had a really good run,” said Quincy senior captain Dan O’Leary.
“Just coming back and seeing the work that guys were putting in over the summer, we were definitely of the mind-set that the goal was to compete for a state championship . . . This year might be a unique chance, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.”
A title run isn not out of the question.
The offense averages a hair under four goals per game. The two losses came against perennial Patriot powers Hanover (3-0) and Duxbury (4-3), two teams Quincy would not see in the Division 2 playoffs. O’Leary has been a steady offensive provider. Griffin Lynch and Brendan Bailey have led a strong effort along the blue line.
“It’s about the type of young men they are,” said Quincy coach Ted Walsh, Jr.
“These kids are good hockey players who were raised right and go out there and compete every night. That’s what has us in this position . . . I say to the kids that I might be 54 years old, but I still dream of being a state champ.”
North Quincy has similar aspirations in the D3 South bracket.
Senior forward Noah Wine (16 goals, 8 assists) has been a revelation after failing to crack 10 points last year. Wine and fellow seniors John Early (8 goals, 11 assists) and Kieran O’Driscoll (11 goals, 4 assists) account for 64 percent of the team’s goals. Junior Cormac Flaherty has held down the fort defensively after playing juniors last season.
The Red Raiders also fell to both Duxbury (5-2) and Hanover (5-3) but empty-net goals in both matchups mask how tight the games were. NQ was tied with Duxbury at one through two periods, while they held three different leads over Hanover but couldn’t close the door. The Red Raiders could certainly see Hanover, the defending Division 3 South champs, again in the tournament. But unlike last year, the matchup does not phase North Quincy.
“When we’ve played against them the past couple of years, they beat us pretty well,” said O’Driscoll, a senior captain who is the only player on the roster with MIAA playoff experience.
“This year, we came out of the game knowing we can definitely beat this team. We know we have a shot at winning if we play our best hockey.”
The simultaneous success for both teams is great news for the future, especially for a North Quincy program that looked like it might fold a few years ago due to lack of numbers.
After sitting in the low 20s for years, the Red Raiders have 33 players in the program this year, enough to field a JV team for the first time since 2014.
Gibbons, who serves as president of the Quincy Youth Hockey board of directors, hopes the continued success of both programs can help to funnel kids from the youth program to their local high school teams.
“You want both schools thriving,” said Gibbons.
“It doesn’t help if Quincy High is 10-1 and we’re 1-10. It doesn’t look good . . . It’s a fun little rivalry that we play twice a year, but at the end of the day, there’s 18 other games and you’re hoping that all of Quincy does well. If both schools are doing well, people see that. It’s great for the city.”
■ A 32-game winless streak dating to February 2017 is no more for Peabody following a 6-5 win over Danvers on Wednesday night.
The Tanners, who qualified for the postseason as recently as the 2015-16 season, fell to 3-14-3 in 2016-17 before an 0-20 finish last winter. Peabody tied Danvers in its second game this season, snapping a 24-game streak without a point. But the Tanners were 0-8-1 before the faceoff against Danvers at McVann-O’Keefe Skating Rink.
Senior captain Nick Capillo had a hat trick for the Tanners, who trailed 4-1 in the second period. “It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure,” Peabody coach Mark Leonard said. “It’s been pretty frustrating. To finally get that monkey off our back, it’s pretty good.”
Riding a five-game winning streak, Danvers (6-2-2) entered the game in the top spot of the Northeastern Conference’s North Division.
“I’m happy for the seniors, they’ve been through a lot,” said Leonard, in his 24th season as head coach.
“It’s not easy to go to the rink every day when you’re not winning. I give them a lot of credit for hanging in there.”
■ Xaverian coach Dave Spinale picked up the 200th win of his career in the Hawks’ 7-2 win over Malden Catholic on Wednesday night. Spinale said the win took him down memory lane of his days private school Westwood, thinking back to the players he has coached since his debut during the 2001-02 season. “It makes you reflect, really, of how lucky I am to coach at such an awesome school,” Spinale said. “I get to coach a lot of great kids and coach with a lot of great coaches. It makes me feel very fortunate.” Senior captain Matty Ryan had two goals and two assists in the win, raising his season total to 20 points for the 6-2-2 Hawks.
■ Six teams in EMass remain without a loss, two in each division: Austin Prep (9-0-1) and Melrose (7-0-4) in Div. 1; Canton (9-0) and Medfield (5-0-3) in Div. 2; and Hanover (9-0-1) and Shawsheen Tech (3-0-5) in Div. 3.
■ BC High still hasn’t lost to an in-state team, its lone setback coming to Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) in its season opener on Dec. 14. Since then, the Eagles are 7-0-1, outscoring their opponents by a 43-10 margin. Fifteen of those goals came in a 15-1 rout of Malden Catholic on Saturday. They’ve already beaten each of their Catholic Conference foes once each to take control of the league standings.
Games to Watch
Saturday, Austin Prep at Pope Francis (Olympia Center, 1:20 p.m.) — The Globe’s second and third-ranked teams face off for the right to slot in behind No. 1 ranked BC High.
Saturday, Waltham at Andover (Valley Forum, 2 p.m.) — The defending Division 1 champion Hawks take a shot at an Andover team which has aspirations of taking the crown this season.
Monday, Reading vs. Catholic Memorial (O’Brien Arena, 12 p.m.) — The first of five matchups from O’Brien Monday, all part of the Middlesex vs. Catholics showdown, looks primed to be the best.
Monday, Newburyport at Canton (Canton Ice House, 2 p.m.) — A two-loss Clippers squad could give an undefeated Bulldogs team its toughest game yet.
Monday, Marshfield at Duxbury (The Bog, 2 p.m.) — The Atlantic Coast League and Patriot League leaders square off in the 10th annual Green Cup.Dan McLoone can be reached at email@example.com.