High School Sports

Let’s Go Wolfpack: One Team’s Improbable Championship Run

In today’s society, high schools are often deeply divided. Students are so concerned with popularity, that it is a rarity that students from different social classes can come together and even so much as peacefully coexist, let alone actually get along.

This winter, the Boston Latin School Boys’ Hockey team captured the hearts of fans in a way quite similar to that of the Red Sox only a few months earlier. The team transcended cliques and captivated all levels of the social hierarchy. This is their story.PART I — Team DeRosa
As the 2004 season came to an end for the Wolfpack of Boston Latin with a 7-4 loss to the Warriors of Nauset in the quarterfinals of the MIAA tournament, many of the school’s fans’ hope for success in the near future died. They looked at the shaky goaltending, and they were concerned. They looked at the inconsistent scoring, and they were worried. They saw coach Dave Coleman leaving, and they were scared. Things did not look promising for the 2005 season.

There was, however, one undeniable bright spot for the team. Center Tommy DeRosa, at the time only a sophomore, had established himself as one of the top players in the league. Solid on his skates and strong with the puck, DeRosa was far and away Latin’s biggest scoring threat. It would be up to him, along with classmate Jimmy Ennis, to carry the team in 2005.

When rumors circulated that he was leaving the school, the outlook became even more dreary. Luckily, these rumors never came to fruition, and DeRosa returned to Latin in September to start his junior year.

Maybe things wouldn’t be too bad for the team after all.      

PART II — Captain SPO
Sean Patrick O’Brien, SPO. Everyone knows him because of his impeccably groomed hair; everyone loves him because of his kindly demeanor and his great sense of humor.

Before the season, when the time came for the team to elect its captain, there was no better choice than O’Brien, a hard-hitting senior defenseman. He was respected by his teammates, and his intensity on the ice, which was only matched by his leadership ability,  set an excellent tone for the other players to follow.

So it was certainly no surprise when O’Brien received the most votes, nor was it a surprise when Paul Hynes, who, over the course of the season, would develop a cult following the likes of which hadn’t been seen at Latin since the Kevin Mann Fan Club half a decade ago, finished second and was named assistant captain.

With the captains set, it was time to prepare for the new season, and a fresh shot at glory.

PART III — New Season, New Beginning
As their season began in early December, there were no lofty expectations for the team, and consequently, there wasn`t any excess pressure on them. Instead, they faced several major questions. How would the team respond to new head coach Frank Woods, who was taking school legend Dave Coleman`s spot behind the bench? Would senior goaltender John Bruno be able to step up and backstop the team? Would anyone not named Ennis or DeRosa be able to score consistently? But the biggest question buzzing around was about in-school bragging rights: Would the hockey team be able to outperform the basketball team, one of the preseason favorites in Division 1 North?

However, only the fans were trying to answer these questions. The players were focused on one thing: Winning. And that’s exactly what they did. They got off to a quick start, beating Bedford 6-3 and tying Haverhill 1-1 to enter the annual Saugus Holiday tournament in late December with a 1-0-1 record.  

In the first round of the tournament, they faced the host, and two-time defending State Champion Saugus Sachems — on their home ice no less. The team played an excellent game, and the score stood tied at three at the end of regulation. In overtime, Latin had a chance to win as DeRosa skated in on a breakaway; however, it was not to be. Soon after Saugus sophomore goalie Adam Izzicupo turned away DeRosa’s game-winning bid with the handle of his stick, defenseman Jeff Driscoll — who had also tied the game late in the third period — lit the lamp at the other end, securing a 4-3 victory. However, due to an MIAA rule preventing overtime during the regular season, Latin was credited with a 3-3 tie. After a 4-4 tie against Lynnfield in the consolation game of the tournament, the team left Saugus with a 1-0-3 record and looking to improve. With an 8-2 annihilation of Walpole, they moved into 2005 with an undefeated record.

The first — and ultimately the only — stumbling block came on January 3rd against Westford Academy, a Division 1 school. Latin jumped out to an early lead, but goalie John Bruno struggled late in the game — a rarity during the season — and Westford cruised to a 6-3 victory. This put the Wolfpack at 2-1-3. Although it seemed unlikely at the time, this would be both the first and last time Latin’s fans would have to watch their team lose a game in regulation.

Over the next six weeks, Latin went on an astounding 14 game unbeaten streak, gathering 12 wins during that stretch. Over those 14 games, Latin outscored their opponents 82-37.

After closing the regular season with a 7-1 victory over Marian, they locked up the second seed in the Division-2 South Sectional tournament, which gave them a first round bye.

PART IV — Tournament Time
Section 1 — Nauset Warriors

With an excellent opportunity for some poetic justice, Latin faced Nauset, who had shutout Hanover, in the tournament quarterfinals.  The location remained the same, Gallo Rink in Bourne. Although Latin was the home team, it hardly seemed like a home game given the hour-long trip to the rink.

Nevertheless, the Latin side was filled with screaming fans, and they would not be disappointed. Latin jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. As was often the case this season, Latin was lead by scoring machine Tommy DeRosa (4 goals, 1 assist); but in this game he would not be alone. Senior forward Greg Galante, who had been blanked throughout the entire regular season came up with two timely goals, the first on a breakaway, and the second was scored as a Dennis Moran blast from the point ricocheted off the end boards, onto Galante’s stick and he buried in the back of the net.

Latin went on to win by the score of 10-4, but the game certainly wasn’t that close. Poor play in the defensive zone lead to three of the four Nauset goals, and masked an otherwise impressive performance by goaltender John Bruno.

Section 2 — Paul Hynes Wrecking Crew
As was previously mentioned, assistant captain Paul Hynes became quite the fan favorite over the course of the year. This Hynes fanaticism reached its apex prior to the team’s next tournament game as a number of Hynes’ groupies purchased shirts which read “Paul Hynes Wrecking Crew” on the front, and bore his name and number on the back. It was estimated that at least two dozen fans were wearing these shirts at the next game to show their appreciation for the man they call Hynie.

Aside from those fans lucky enough to get a shirt, it was obvious that the rest of the fans were equally enamored with Paul. Although he saw little ice time over the course of the year, his name could often be heard echoing throughout the arena. In fact, when the team happened to be losing — which, admittedly, was not very often — or was in some other difficult situation, fans would resort to chanting “We’ve Got Paul Hynes” in an attempt to deride the fans of the opposing team.

Section 3 — Marshfield Rams
As was the case with Nauset, the Marshfield Rams, the team’s next opponent in the tournament semifinals, failed to provide any sort of challenge for the high-flying Wolfpack.

Junior winger Nick Bickerton got the scoring started as he cruised down the left side and deposited a wrist shot past the Marshfield goalie. Greg Galante continued to have a hot hand as he scored his third goal of the tournament. Fellow Senior Richie Karski added his second goal of the tournament, and third in as many games.

However, the real story of this game was Junior Jimmy Ennis. Voted the league’s Most Outstanding Player during the regular season for his astounding performance in league play, Ennis was a definite force to be reckoned with on this afternoon. He scored two goals and added an assist, but the numbers don’t fully show the dominance he displayed.

Marshfield was held scoreless until late in the third period, when a shot off the faceoff deflected off Bruno’s glove and found the back of the net. Although the shutout was lost, Latin still cruised to an easy 7-1 victory, and a date with number 1 seed Coyle-Cassidy in the South Sectional Finals.

Section 4 — Coyle-Cassidy Warriors
Going into the South Finals, Latin fans were supremely confident. The team had outscored opponents 17-5 in their two previous tournament games and, although Coyle was the top seed, they played a rather weak schedule against mostly Division 3 teams. A tight game was the last thing fans expected, but it’s exactly what they got.

The game was held on St. Patrick’s Night, and given the predominantly Irish fan base of the team, it’s safe to say that many of the fans were a wee bit tipsy. That only added to the intensity in the arena.

As had become almost a ritual during the season, Latin scored first. However; unlike the previous tournament games, this contest would be far from a runaway. Coyle was hell-bent on spoiling Latin’s run and they hung tough the whole way.

Coyle scored twice within the first two minutes of the second period to take a 2-1 lead, but three powerplay goals from Latin, including two almost identical wrist shots from the point by sophomore defenseman Tom Regan — who also added three assists — put Latin back on top. Still Coyle hung tough, once again tying the game, only to have Jimmy Ennis tally a shorthanded marker on a fabulous second effort 1:46 later.

With just under six minutes left in the third, Coyle tied the game for the final time. The score remained tied for only four minutes before Tommy DeRosa became the hero yet again, swatting a loose puck into the net for the game-winner.

This win gave Latin the right to move into the state championship game at the FleetCenter, Sunday against old foe Saugus, the North Sectional champs.

PART V — Welcome to the FleetCenter
After their thrilling victory over the Warriors of Coyle-Cassidy in the South Finals, Latin moved on to the State Championship game against a familiar foe, the Saugus Sachems.

Coming off the thriller Thursday night, few fans expected the game to be as exciting as the last, but they couldn`t have been more wrong.

The scoring started immediately. After winning the opening draw, captain Sean O’Brien hit DeRosa with a pass that sent him in all alone and Tommy wouldn’t be denied, as he slid a backhander past Saugus goalie Adam Izzicupo just ten seconds into the game. However, the lead would be short-lived.

Just two minutes later, Nick Serino tipped a shot from Frank LoConte and it hopped over Bruno’s blocker and trickled in to tie the score at one. That would be the end of scoring in the first, and the two teams retired to the locker rooms for the first intermission with the score knotted at 1.

When the teams returned to the ice for the second period, the Sachems had a little extra hitch in their giddy-up and they carried the play early on. Just over three minutes into the second, Matt Serino, broke in alone and lifted a backhander past Bruno to give Saugus a 2-1 lead. Saugus continued to outwork Latin for the remainder of the second period, and if not for the remarkable play of John Bruno in net, the score could have gotten out of hand quite easily.

The start of the third period saw more of the same. It would take a great shorthanded effort from Ennis and DeRosa to once again even the score. With O’Brien sitting in the box for slashing, Latin’s dynamic duo went to work. DeRosa picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, and after drawing the defender toward him, slipped a pass to Ennis who put a backhander through Izzicupo’s pads to tie the game at two.

That’s how the score would stand at the end of regulation. In overtime, Saugus looked poised to secure their dynastic reign, but again Bruno came up huge, making several big saves early in the extra session.

When Latin went on the powerplay for the eighth time — they were previously 0 for 7 — it was time for DeRosa to do something special. After taking a pass from Ennis, he skated to the left circle and uncorked what may have been the most perfect slapshot in hockey history. After failing to score twice in similar situations by shooting low, DeRosa went high and placed the shot perfectly over Izzicupo’s glove and under the crossbar, securing Latin`s first state title.

PART VI — The Aftermath
When the red light went on, the celebration began. On the ice, DeRosa skated to center ice before being mobbed by his teammates in a fit of unbridled euphoria. In the stands, a similar euphoric state existed as the Latin SuperFans rejoiced like they never had before.

An entire year of work lead up to that moment, and both the players and the fans were going to savor the moment. The award ceremony was nothing short of magical, but, alas all good things must come to an end.

So, as we prepare to say goodbye to six seniors — captain Sean O`Brien, assistant captain Paul Hynes, goalie John Bruno, and forwards Greg Galante, Richie Karski, and Billy Doogan — as well as superhero Tommy DeRosa, and league All-Star Tom Regan — both leaving to attend other schools — we relish the present and look with hopeful eyes to the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *