(UPDATED Monday,March 19)- The 14-player Dorchester Youth Hockey Pee Wee A team, led by Coach Richard Heap, won the state championship this St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Marlborough, taking their 27-1-1 record against the best Pee Wee teams in the state. The team went 5-0 during three days of tournament play to capture the state banner.
The roster includes Cullen Burke, John Connolly , John B. Driscoll, Travis Heap, Ryan Joyce, Brendan Mannion, Donovan J. Mannion, Sean Mannion, Sam Mastrogiacomo, Jack McCarthy, Dylan McDougall, John T. Murray, William Penella and Kyle Pizzarella. Coach Heap has been assisted this year by Phil Mastrogiacomo and Steve Pizzarella.
Who would have thought way back in September what lay ahead for this bunch of 11-to- 13-year-olds, most of whom started playing hockey together when they were barely able to walk, never mind skate. But they’ve stuck together like a strong marriage through good times and bad.
They started the season with a 10-0 rout of Somerville then gained a 3-3 tie against Wellesley, which would prove to be a pivotal game in the standings because Wellesley turned out to be a powerhouse. Then things started to roll: The boys went on an impressive 13-game winning streak during which they outscoring their opponents, 112-22.
There was one bump in the road, a tough 2-1 loss to Wellesley in late January. But Coach Heap rallied his team right back into winning form and the victories kept coming, right through this past weekend when the team won the District 1 championship, going undefeated in the Greater Boston League finals.
Coach Heap, with the help of Phil and Steve, got and kept his boys in great shape with his stress on skating at practices. He pushes every one of these teens to reach his potential, and he knows the strengths of the players well enough to put them in positions to succeed.
Manning the blue line most of the season were Travis Heap, John Murray, Dylan McDougall, and Cullen Burke. They protected their end of the ice ferociously while learning the transition game, getting the puck out of their own end, moving it up to neutral ice, and knowing when to rush or pass to the forward line, where Sam Mastrogiacomo, John Connolly, and Ryan Joyce could work their magic. The tenacious back checking by these boys was impeccable all year long. One change involved moving Brendan Mannion and Sean Mannion up to forward to join Jack McCarthy where they set up shop in front of the net, causing big screens, and banging in rebounds.
Then there are Kyle Pizzarella, Buddy Penella, and Donovan Mannion, the “little pints of pain in the butt” for any team. These three would fly around, disrupting potential threats by not letting any offense get rolling.
The real confidence of this team lies on the shoulders of the guy between the pipes all season, John Driscoll. “Mr. Calm and Cool” is their man, as his goals-against average makes clear.
No matter what happens this weekend, this season has been exciting and fun for the boys, their coaches, and their fans. The memories will last a lifetime.
A personal note to the boys: If you continue to follow Coach Heap’s lead and keep working as a team, who knows what lies ahead for. You will take a bit of the “luck of the Irish” to Marlborough in your quest for more magic. Congratulations and thank you to Coaches Heap, Mastrogiacomo, and Pizzarella. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.
– TOM MANNION