SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 12, 2012

The Blue Line Report: The Magical Mystery Tour

Let the lads from Liverpool give our local teams a lift this season

By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

---- — Among the many things I’ve discovered in this lifetime, two of the most poignant are:

1.) If you say you love sports but you don’t love hockey, then I’m not sure I trust your judgment.

2.) If you say you love music but you don’t love The Beatles, then I really don’t trust your judgment at all.

Like root beer and vanilla ice cream, they’re two things you wouldn’t think would go great together, but actually sync with one another perfectly. The music of The Beatles is timeless, classic, poignant and resonates with people from 2 to 102; hockey, too, carries those same tendencies while providing a sensory explosion for the eyes and ears.

I’m not sure if John, Paul, George or Ringo ever put on the blades — but who cares? Let’s mesh them together here and give each of our 10 high school hockey teams in The Salem News’ coverage area a Beatles classic to call their own for the 2012-13 season (teams listed in alphabetical order):

Beverly Panthers

”Come Together”

Pretty self-explanatory here. All the pieces are in place for a memorable season; it’s up to the Panthers and their ability to play as one focused unit to follow through on that task. With talent galore — up front with Ryan Santo, Kevin Lally, Jake Straw and the Irving cousins, captains Andrew and Connor; stalwarts Matt Hamor, Jack Morency, Sean Munzing and Nick Albano back on defense; and underrated sophomore star Tim Biarelli in goal — Beverly controls its own destiny if it can, indeed, come together. Right now.

Bishop Fenwick Crusaders

”It’s Getting Better”

It’s no secret that the Crusaders took their lumps a year ago jumping into the deep, unforgiving waters of Division 1 high school hockey. But with a year under their belts and a solid core of returning veterans (goalie Pat O’Leary; defensemen Jake Brennan, Mark Todisco and P.J. Usalis; and forwards Drew Thibodeau, Nick Finan, Brian Corcoran, Mike Napolitano, Chris Carney, Brian Bassett and Nick Coccoluto), things are looking much better on Margin Street. Monday’s season-opening, third-period comeback win over Austin Prep could be just the start.

Danvers Falcons

”With a Little Help From my Friends”

There’s a reason the Falcons surprised many Northeastern Conference hockey watchers a year ago to capture the league title. They played selfless, passionate hockey and bought into head coach Kevin Brown’s system of limiting shots against while burying the chances they created. Granted, there is some very good top six talent among the forwards (captains Rob Buchanan and Joe Strangie, along with A.J. Couto, Jay Calcagno, Matt Flynn and former junior hockey player Adam Merry) and capable D-men such as Mike Disciullo, Kevin Anderson, Shea Doyle, Ryan Cassidy and Alec Littlefield in front of sophomore goalies Alex Taylor and Jay Joyce. But to once again exceed expectations, they’ll have to continue buying what Brown’s selling without any one player thinking they could, or should, do more than their own job. It’s about relying on their teammates that will ultimately allow the Blue-and-White to achieve their team goals.

Marblehead Headers

”Get Back”

To the Garden, that is. And why not? The upperclassmen on this team, like forwards Ty Bates, Ian Maag and Tommy Koopman in addition to blueliners Liam Gillis and Zac Cuzner, know the routine and what it takes to fight and scrap and battle through a tough regular season schedule and an even tougher postseason slate. Having said that, would anyone be surprised if the Headers found a way to be skating on the Garden ice on St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, aiming for their second Division 3 state title in three seasons? There’s plenty of depth, including Joe Newall, Trevor Jones, Dean Fader and Cam Rowe and the very dependable Myles Barry between the pipes. Newcomers such as senior forward Trip Franzese (came back to Marblehead High), junior goalkeeper Harrison Young (back from St. John’s Prep) and freshmen twins Matt and Kyle Koopman should make the Headers even more dangerous.

Masconomet Chieftains

”Carry That Weight”

OK, so the Chieftains don’t appear have an overabundance of goal scoring, and with only a half-dozen seniors on the roster, it’s evident the young guys are going to be asked to step it up. Hence: “Carry That Weight,” which begins the out-of-this-world three-song closer to conclude the brilliant “Abbey Road”(not counting the 27-second-long “Her Majesty,” stuck on at the end of the album). Goalie Matt Cardillo and forward Alec DiGiorgio, the two captains, need to carry it. So do guys used to playing big roles such as defensemen Ty Costello and Joe Griffin. Others, such as newcomers Mike Castro and Vitaly Knowles, will be expected to earn their varsity minutes with strong, smart play. Masconomet will need to use its greatest gifts — speed, defense and goaltending — and buoy those into system-generated goals at the other end of the rink.

Peabody Tanners

”I’ll be Back”

A great, sometimes forgotten tune from “A Hard Day’s Night” tells the tale of this year’s Tanners: It’s a squad you simply cannot keep down for long. After years of high-level success, they took a bit of a tumble last winter and missed the playoffs, but with 16 players returning and a plethora of potential, you’ve got to like the Tanner City kids’ chances of getting back to the Big Dance. Peabody will be tough, especially in its own end with four defensemen 6 feet or taller and captain Joe Powers kicking out shots in goal. Fellow captain Matt McIsaac can play both up front or on the back line, as needed; teammates such as Derek DeMild (a 6-foot-3, 200-pound beast on skates), captain Pat Ruotolo, Mike Vadala, Ryan Carney, Andrew Bisconti, Cam Smullen and 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior rearguard Guiseppe Zarro should all be huge difference-makers in this team’s quest to get back to the playoffs.

Pingree Highlanders

”The Long and Winding Road”

Facing some of New England’s best Division 1 prep school talent game in and game out with only five players with returning varsity experience on your roster is not an easy task. For the Highlanders and new head coach Gino Khachadourian, it’s an uphill climb. Still, with a dynamic leader such as Jerome Cappadona up front, along with Chris Usseglio and Brandon Franco, it’s a good start. Sophomore goalie Chris DeVito also has the ability to shine while Ryan Lovell, Matthew Cavanaugh and Marblehead’s Maxx Trotsky all look to be impact freshmen for a team that will continue improving week by week.

St. John’s Prep Eagles

”All Together Now”

A terrific little ditty from perhaps The Beatles’ most overlooked album, “Yellow Submarine,” the message here is as simple as the lyrics and cadence to the song. Everyone knows what the Eagles are nowadays: a state hockey powerhouse, deep and talented, yet still trying to capture that elusive Super 8 championship. A trip to the title game and state semifinals the last two seasons have done little to quench their thirst; this squad has one ultimate goal of raising the state hardware. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the Eagles: Brian Pinho, Andrew Brandano, Tyler Bird, Jack McCarthy, Cam Shaheen, Nic Gianelli, etc., in the forward ranks and Ean Mendeszoon, Dillon Gargano, James Brightney, Evan Leclerc and Brent Murray back on D. If the Prep can get the goaltending, they absolutely have a chance to be there when the final pucks of the season are dropped.

Salem Witches

”I’ve Got a Feeling”

Talking with new head coach Ted Ganley, you get the sense that there’s a lot of change surrounding the Witches this winter — and they’re all for the best. With an early season focus on conditioning and keeping their skating legs fresh, Salem is much deeper than in seasons past and should be able to skate three lines and 4-5 defensemen regularly. Unless you’ve watched him, people don’t realize how good junior goaltender Brett Harring is. His fellow captain, Jake Batista, heads up a defense that is fully committed on greatly cutting down its goals against. Spencer Bergholtz, Danny Heck and Jake Stahlman will be counted on as the scoring leaders up front. All signs point to great improvement over last season’s one-win squad.

Swampscott Big Blue

”Revolution”

Taken directly from its Latin roots, revolution means “a turn around.” For a program that has not tasted a postseason victory since 1969 — that’s a full year before Bobby Orr soared through the air after scoring “The Goal” — the Big Blue are desperate to put an end to that dubious streak once and for all. Trevor Massey, Chris Dandreo, Chris Carman and senior transfer Patrick Burkett head up a strong defense. Robert Serino, Nunzio Morretti, Ryan Cresta, Corey Carmody, Griffin Hunt and Joey Silva will be asked to pick up the pace offensively in front of some inexperienced goaltending. Is this the year the streak ends? We’ll know in less than three months.

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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 pstacey@salemnews.com or 978-338-23650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.