During their respective high school seasons, the boys who play for Weymouth, Norwood, Milton, Braintree, Hingham, Xaverian and Abington are bitter rivals. But when they play for the Weymouth Sharks, they have a completely different goal — namely to win the Massachusetts Tier II championship.
That’s what happened in 2012, when the Sharks captured the state 16-and-Under title and advanced to the USA Hockey National Championships in Green Bay, Wis.
They emulated that accomplishment this season at the 18U level, when they again annexed the Tier II state title.
“I was coaching Weymouth youth hockey when these kids were 10 or 11,” Sharks coach Dave Flanagan said. “There always were great teams at schools like Braintree and Hingham. I was able to identify the best players from the South Shore because they were so good.
“When we started putting together a team, we recruited player to play in a highly-competitive league.”
In this case, the Sharks play in the Midget Tier II Developmental League, which begins around Labor Day and ends in November, when boys suit up for their high school teams. Once those teams finish tournament play, they re-join the Sharks.
At that time, they commence putting the rivalries that existed during their high school season in the rearview mirror.
“We knew last year this was going to be something special because of the high school hockey rivalries,” Flanagan said. “It went from they’re really hating each other during the winter to becoming best friends.
“They were high school rivals who wanted to take off each other’s heads. When they played together, they really jelled, and it was like they were playing with their brothers.”
After overcoming an initial reluctance to play on the same team, what transpired involved more than shooting, passing and blocking shots.
“When they started forming friendships early on, they became very close,” Flanagan said. “Players from different towns started hanging out together, going out to dinner as a team and spending free time together as a team.
“This unity brought them together and it showed on the ice.”
Flanagan’s contention that “it showed on the ice” was underscored this season by the fact the Sharks compiled a 20-2-4 overall record including a 5-0 slate in the state tournament. And that was after they captured the regular-season league title and dispatched the Cape Cod Whalers 4-1 and the Rhode Island Hitmen 5-1 in the league tournament.
“This is our third year,” Flanagan said. “The first year we lost in the [state] U-16 semifinals and last year we won and went to Green Bay for the nationals. And the entire team came back for this season.”
The Sharks’ system was basic in that while it featured balanced scoring, it was more defensive-oriented. According to Flanagan, the Sharks played disciplined hockey, were smart when the puck was in the neutral zone and then opened it up in the offensive zone.
Most importantly, the Sharks fielded four lines consisting of Brendan Kelley, Nick Ward, Joe Flanagan, Patrick Coleman, Tom Troy, Dave Fasano, Connor McCarthy, Tom Mahoney, Justin Ryder, T.J. Antonetti, Steve Ganley and Nick Mitrano.
“We roll four lines,” Flanagan said. “Our strategy is to catch the opposing team on a long shift. We do short shifts. All four lines can score. That’s been our strategy all year.”
The Sharks also are deep on defense with three pairings featuring Mike Brennan, Eddie Cardinal, Jimbo Flaherty, Joey Harrington, Kevin Morrissey and Joey Nardone.
“We also have a boy that I feel is one of the better goalies in the state, Jordan Davis, from Norwood,” Flanagan said.
Every player on the current team except one is a first-year 18U. And several are juniors in high school, which means they’ll be eligible to play next year for their respective high school as well as the Sharks.
“People way that next year we’ll have a target on our back,” Flanagan said. “That was the case this year, too, because we won it last year at U-16.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.