By Phil Stacey
Doyle Somerby is still close with a lot of his buddies back home that play for the Marblehead High hockey team.
“Zac Cuzner, Ty Bates, Ian Maag ... I always watch those guys play when I go back home. I’m still really tight with them,” said Somerby. “And that (Headers’) team that won the (Division 3) state championship two years ago, I grew up playing with a lot of those guys that I’m still close with, like Ryan Dempsey and one of my best friends, Austin Haley. It’s great to see them all doing so well.”
Undoubtedly, many Marblehead players would say the same thing about Somerby.
A 6-foot-5, 238-pound beast of a defenseman, Somerby patrols the blue line for one of the top prep school teams in New England at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. The 18-year-old is already ticketed to attend Boston University on a hockey scholarship beginning in the fall.
He is a rarity in that because of when his birthday falls (July 4), Somerby was eligible to be selected in last year’s NHL Entry Draft — and was, in the fifth round (125th overall) by the New York Islanders.
“I’m just trying to work hard day in and day out and keep things simple in games the rest of the way,” said Somerby, who is distant cousins with former NHL defenseman Denis Gauthier. “I’m not trying to do too much, but rather just stay within my boundaries and keep mistakes from happening. I want to take care of things in the defensive zone as much as I can.”
Whatever Somerby is doing, it’s obviously working. A looming presence every time he hops over the boards, Somerby logs major minutes while also skating on the KUA power play and penalty killing units. He has 11 assists and has only been on the ice for three goals against all season for the Wildcats (16-1) — with the program’s first-ever triumph in the prestigious Flood-Marr Tournament over the holiday break (after losing in the title game the last 2 seasons) the highlight of the season to date.
With 16 seniors on their roster, the Wildcats expect big things ... hopefully ending by raising a New England prep school championship trophy over their heads during championship weekend in Salem, N.H. in March.
“Our head coach, Mike Levine, expects a lot from us and gets the best of us by pushing us,” said Somerby, who was a plus-3 in his team’s 4-2 Flood-Marr title clincher over Westminster.
A converted forward, Somerby expects a lot of himself because he knows the expectations that others place on him. As a high schooler who has already been drafted by the NHL and who has his college plans already booked — not to mention his size and the high profile team he skates for — make Somerby easy for opponents and fans alike to pick out.
“A lot of people are watching us play,” he said, “so I want to give them my best night in and night out. When I played against other kids in the past who had committed (to colleges), I went as hard as I could against them. I’m seeing the same thing myself this year ... and it’s helping my own game.”
A strong skater for such a big man, Somerby is always looking for ways to get himself better prepared for the next level. He’s learning how to better close opposing skaters off as they come into the zone, using both angles and leverage. Going up against teammates such as Nick Roberto and Niko Rufo in practice every day — speedy forwards who are also bound for Division 1 college hockey — have made that process much easier.
“I like to think of myself as a two-way defenseman,” said Somerby, who partners up on the KUA blue line with former Malden Catholic standout Brendan White. “I’m still working on being the best shutdown guy I can be in my own zone, but I feel like I bring a good level of passing and see the ice well.”
Hockey East schools such as Maine, New Hampshire and UMass Amherst were all vying for Somerby’s services before BU came calling. “As soon as they offered, I took it. It’s where I always wanted to be,” he said.
When, say, BU assistant coach Buddy Powers attends one of his KUA games, Somerby will often ask him after the fact and ask the Terrier assistant to critique his game.
He also is thankful that Brett Peterson, his advisor, has helped him progress as a player.
“I know I’m a project,” Somerby said of being drafted by the Islanders. “I look at a guy like Will O’Neill of Salem, a defenseman who was drafted later on like I was, played four years of college (at Maine) and is now working his way up the pro ranks (currently playing with St. John’s of the AHL in the Winnipeg Jets system). I know it’s going to take time with me, and I’m fine with that.
“Right now, I’m focused on helping my team now have the best season we can possibly have before heading off to BU. What better way for all of us seniors to end our careers than with a championship?”
You have to think that Marblehead has had tonight’s game with Danvers (8:10 p.m. at Salem State) circled on its calendars for some time now.
You may recall that the Headers lost their season opener to the Blue-and-White, 4-2, back on Dec. 15. You may also recall that Marblehead gave up all four of those goals in the third period.
Contrast that to the rest of their season so far, when the Headers have surrendered just 10 goals in 25 periods of play, and you can see why they’ve got to be thinking payback tonight.
Marblehead (7-2) has lost just once since their opener and has shown strong scoring balance, with nine players having recorded at least five points. Senior right wing Trip Franzese, a transfer from Pingree, has been a revelation on the second line, where he leads the team (and is tied for the North Shore lead) with 11 goals. Top liners Tom Koopman (6-5-11), Ian Maag (4-6-10) and Ty Bates (2-4-6) are a threat to rip twine any time they’re on the ice, and the defense, spearheaded by Liam Gillis, Zac Cuzner, Cam Rowe and freshman Kyle Koopman, have really found their skating legs since the season began.
The Headers have been rotating junior Myles Barry (3-2, 2.00 goals-against, 1 shutout) and sophomore Harrison Young (4-0, 0.50, 3 shutouts) between the pipes; if form holds true, look for the 10th grader to face the Falcons tonight.
While their record (1-7-2) certainly isn’t what they’d like for it to be, there certainly hasn’t been any quit in the Salem Witches.
“The attitude has been fantastic from the first day of practice on,” said first-year head coach Ted Hanley. “No one is hanging their heads; they’re working hard and continuing to look to improve themselves. I can’t say enough about these kids.”
It’s not as if the Witches don’t have some skilled players. Senior Spencer Bergholtz (4-4-8) is crafty with good speed and has a nose for the net; the same can be said for fellow forward Danny Heck (3-6-9), a junior, while sophomore Sam Petri (2-6-8) and junior Matt Jalbert (2-5-7) can also get their names on the scoresheet. Junior Brett Harring has seen nearly a shot per minute (311 shots faced in 340 minutes) this winter, and defenseman Jake Batista, a senior captain, can be a steadying influence on the back line.
But the Witches need a win to boost their confidence, something they haven’t tasted since opening night. That could happen tonight when they entertain East Boston at Salem State (4:30); the Jets come in with a 3-6-1 record, but all three wins are over the same team — O’Bryant — which also happened to be the same squad that Salem beat in mid-December.
The Blue Line Report, a column on North Shore high school hockey, appears each Wednesday during the winter sports season. Contact sports editor Phil Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-23650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.