The Revere High hockey team capped the winningest season in school history with a pair of victories last week in the Newburyport Bank Tournament.
Not only did the twin triumphs earn the Patriots the tourney title, but they also boosted Coach Jim Palumbo and his crew to a record of 15-2-3 for 33 points on the season, the most ever achieved by a Revere High hockey team.
â€œTwo years ago when we won the Northeastern Conference title, we had 32 points and seven or so years ago we also had 32 points. But now weâ€™ve set a new standard for the Revere High hockey program,â€ noted Palumbo.
The victory in the tourney opener last Monday was a 5-2 cakewalk over Triton. The Pats built up a 5-0 lead by the midpoint of the third period and coasted home from there. Chris Mastropietro, who repeated as the NECâ€™s Player of the Year, got Revere off to a flying start when he intercepted a Triton break out pass and cruised in alone on the goalie just 2:15 into the contest.
Chris M. made it 3-0 in the second period with two more lamplighters, both of which were assisted by Sean Dean, for a natural hat trick, Mastroâ€™s second HT of the season.
Dean, assisted by Mastropietro and Anthony Noel, made it 4-0 at 4:42 and Matt Vazquez, assisted by Andrew Sullivan and Joe Corbett, made it 5-0 at 7:04.
That brought the Pats into the finals against Haverhill, a former Greater Boston League rival from long before any of the current Patriots were born.
After a scoreless first frame, Jay Sasso, an NEC all star for the second straight season, intercepted a Haverhill clearing pass and waltzed in for an unassisted goal at 1:42 of the second period. Dean, assisted by Sasso, made it 2-0 about a minute later.
Haverhill cut the margin to 2-1 with 5:12 left on the clock, but Mastropietro showed the Hillies the moves that gave NEC foes fits this season, as he made an end to end rush for an insurance marker just 58 seconds later.
Haverhill made things interesting with a goal with 1:14 to play, but the Revere defense held firm, even when Haverhill pulled their goalie for a sixth skater, to preserve the 3-2 triumph.
The twin wins also gave the Pats a high, number 3 seed in the Division 2 North bracket of the state tourney where this yearâ€™s edition of the Patriots will be seeking to avoid the first round jinx that has bedeviled RHS teams in the hockey tourney for decades.
One again however, the Pats were set to face a â€œtrapâ€ team in the opening round in 14th seeded Watertown, which was 2-16-2 on the season. However, Watertown eliminated the Pats three years ago in a first round contest. They always play tougher than their low seed would suggest because they compete in the predominantly Division 1 Middlesex League, one of the top conferences in the state, qualifying for the tourney only by playing, and defeating, teams that are in its same division or lower.
However, Palumbo was optimistic about the chances of his 2008-2009 edition moving beyond the first game. â€œIf any team is going to advance in the tourney, this is the one,â€ said Palumbo. â€œThis is the closest knit team Iâ€™ve ever had. They really believe in each other. They have an attitude of, â€˜We can do this,â€™ whenever they get on the ice.
â€œTheyâ€™re also the most receptive, both as a team and individually, to sacrificing for the good of the team and working together as a team,â€ added Palumbo, echoing the sentiments of Bill Belichick in his description of the winning formula of those other Patriots.
Reflecting on the teamâ€™s success this season, Palumbo conceded that he was not sure how things were going to turn out when he first greeted his forces after Thanksgiving.
â€œFor one thing, we only have about 18 or so boys, including the JV, in the entire program,â€ said Palumbo. â€œPlaying in the North End these past four or five years really hurt us,â€ he noted, adding that with Cronin Rink now back in service, heâ€™s hoping the numbers in the program will rebound.
â€œWe knew we had three bone fide all stars in Chris, Jay, and our goalie, Nick DiMare, but everybody else was more or less an unknown at the start of the season,â€ Palumbo continued. â€œBut the way that everybody has stepped up and contributed to the teamâ€™s success truly has been a wonderful thing to see.â€
Palumbo noted the fine defensive work of George Weiner, Nick Adreani, and Anthony Noel, â€œwho have played unbelievably as a unit down the stretch;â€ junior winger Dean, â€œwho had just one assist all last year and this year has 21 points;â€ senior Matt Vazquez, â€œwho also has improved by leaps and bounds over last season;â€ and cited other team members such as Jon Tran, Peter Marino, Andrew Sullivan, and Joe Corbett.
When asked whether having three outstanding players such as Mastropietro, Sasso, and DiMare elevates the entire teamâ€™s performance, Palumbo agreed wholeheartedly.
â€œAll of the players see their work ethic and see what they can do on the ice, and they want to emulate it,â€ said Palumbo. â€œThey make everybody else want to play better, and when you have a great group of boys like we have, that creates its own dynamic in a very positive way.â€
If the Pats get by Watertown in the first round (the contest was set for Tuesday evening at Woburn as the Journal was going to press), they will meet the winner of the Masconomet vs. Lynnfield contest in the quarterfinals Thursday at Stoneham at 5:00 p.m. Masco, which is seeded sixth, has a very strong team, while Lynnfield is similar to Watertown in that it plays in a strong conference and its 9-8-4 record is deceiving.
The semifinals are set for Chelmsford on March 2.
Interestingly, the top two teams in the bracket are Peabody at #2, an NEC foe Revere beat twice this season, and Winthrop, the NEC champ to whom Revere was runnerup.