(Originally featured in the Peabody Weekly News)
The annual “Hockey Night in Boston” event showcases the best high school talent that the Bay State has to offer, while gearing up the participants for their scholastic seasons by offering the toughest competition around.
TeamONE, local hockey club and reigning HNiB champion, sports three all-stars determined to harbor the success of their summer team as they strive to become the saviors of a rebuilding program at Bishop Fenwick.
Forwards Mike Napolitano and Drew Thibodeau and defenseman Chris Minter are tired of losing.
After a two-win 2011-12 campaign, the senior trio from Peabody is more focused than ever and looking to go out on top before heading to college.
They’re hoping this tournament guides them there.
“I think Hockey Night in Boston is great. I love playing in it because there’s great hockey out there and great teams, getting you in shape for the season,” said Napolitano, who is hoping to major in business and play at Suffolk University the 2013-2014 season. “We’re hoping to have a better season than last season. Only winning two games is tough but it’s a learning experience. We’re trying to get ready to make a push to make the playoffs or at least get better. We just want to have a good year and get some looks from some schools.”
Heading into Sunday night’s play, TeamONE was 2-1-1 and looked primed to make a deep run in the tournament after wins over Suburban and Mass Attack and a tie with Mass New England All-Stars.
The high-intensity, high-drama environment surrounding the premier tournament allows for the participants to get in the right frame of mind — competition-wise — that they otherwise wouldn’t get over the summer.
“There’s definitely good competition here that gets us ready for the season,” said Minter, who transferred to Fenwick last year after spending his freshman and sophomore years at Malden Catholic and Peabody High, respectively. “It gets our legs moving and it’s fun playing with these kids and I get to play with them year round now.”
“We’re basically just trying to get ready for this year. We don’t want to get killed every game again. We’ve got to get it going before the season starts,” said Thibodeau, after the team’s 9-0 victory over Mass Attack. “It’s definitely good to get some looks from different scouts coming down, especially on this team since we’ll go deep in the playoffs.”
Thibodeau is looking to play at either Endicott College, Suffolk, Stonehill College, or Nichols College while studying business or marketing. Minter is looking at Stonehill, Endicott, and Curry College. The defenseman wants to study criminal justice, which is fitting because the six-foot, 200-pound righty was dismissed early from the win over Mass Attack for playing the role of enforcer.
The Fenwick program could very-well be on its way to turning things around with these three athletes at the helm.
TeamONE coach Ray Jacques thinks there’s no three players better prepared to kickstart a fledgling program.
“I really like those kids and their work ethic; they’re just really good hockey kids,” said the team’s head coach of six years. “If you have to rely on three kids to rebuild a program, those are three good kids to rely on.”
Jacques also believes that the three of them each have bright hockey futures ahead.
“Chris, at his top level, is one of the best defensemen in our league. He has an NHL or professional-level shot; it’s unbelievable. What’s great about Chris is the way he releases his shot. It’s scary.”
Thibodeau and Napolitano just joined TeamONE last year, while Minter has been on the team for several years. Jacques’ assessment of the forwards isn’t as in-depth as it is with Minter, but he can already see the kind of players they are despite the limited exposure to the coach.
“From a hockey perspective, I don’t know them too well but their work ethic is great,” he said. “What I’ve noticed about them is they pressure the puck very well, then they got off the ice. They’re not out there just floating and weaving and cutting around. Those two are responsible in all the different areas of the ice, not just one. That’s important and it adds value to a coach and they seem to see the ice very well.”
Sounds like Fenwick might be on the rebound after all.