Maybe Derek Doherty should hold a banner-raising ceremony before every home game.
If that's all it takes to get his Tewksbury High hockey team to play the way they played Saturday night, it would be a small price to pay.
Inspired by the unveiling of Tewksbury's 2010-2011 Division 2 State Championship banner before the game, the Redmen scored early and often and completely dominated Methuen, 6-2 in their home opener at the Breakaway Ice Center Saturday.
Senior captain PJ Mugford scored on a laser blast from the point just 1:07 into the game, and junior captain Derek Petti scored two goals and assisted on a third as Tewksbury came out flying and looked like a completely different team than the one that lost 5-2 to Chelmsford on Wednesday.
"That was better," Doherty said through a huge smile afterward. "I think it was all about composure, I really do. They kind of settled in. They got those first game jitters out of their system and they played better tonight."
It also didn't hurt that 8-10 graduates of last year's state championship team turned out for the game, taking part in the pre-game banner raising ceremony and stopping by the locker room to give the 2011-2012 Redmen a pep talk.
"They were all fired up to have last year's seniors come back," Doherty said. "I had them come into the locker room and talk to the kids a little bit. We kind of reminisced about how we started off slow as a team last year, but then we brought it all together. And that's what we intend to do with these guys."
After Mugford staked Tewksbury to an early lead, Petti made it 2-0 with his first goal of the season, an unassisted tally that came with 2:53 left in the first period.
Methuen closed to within a goal three minutes into the second period, but junior forward Tyler Slavin scored his first goal of the season on a pretty pass from defenseman Mike Casey just three minutes later, restoring the two-goal margin.
Tewksbury put the game out of reach in the third period, outscoring Methuen 3-1 over the final 15 minutes. Freshman forward Ryan Petti (the next in a long line of Tewksbury goal scorers named Petti) scored his first career varsity goal at the 10:45 mark of the third (Casey collected his second assist), and older brother Derek Petti netted his second of the game (Adam DeGregorio assisting) with just over six minutes to play.
Methuen narrowed the lead to 5-2 with four minutes to play, but sophomore forward Jack Cash scored his first career varsity goal (Patrick Doherty assisting) with just 19 seconds left to close out a confidence-building night for the young Redmen.
"This definitely builds their confidence," Doherty said. "Methuen is a much better team than they have been in the past, and any time you can go out there and beat a good team, it builds confidence."
Doherty was particularly impressed with the improved play of his defense, led by the veteran Mugford.
"Our defense played much better tonight," Doherty said. "Shannon Alukonis played a great game, and Mike Casey is starting to feel a little more comfortable making the transition from forward. PJ (Mugford) is the obvious leader out there, but the other guys are starting to follow suit and they're starting to feel a little more comfortable."
Freshman goaltender Kyle Paquette got his first career varsity win, stopping 16 of the 18 Methuen shots. Tewksbury outshot Methuen, 24-18.
Tewksbury also out-hit Methuen by a noticeable margin, rattling the boards at the Rangers expense on a number of occasions.
"We talked about that in practice," Doherty said. "We played kind of hesitant in the first game and we wanted to come into this game and set the tone. That first guy has to beat the other guy to the puck, and if he doesn't, he has to play the body.
"Sometimes you're gonna take a couple penalties when you play that way," Doherty added. "But as long as we're going and we're going hard, good things are going to happen."
Overall, it was a memorable night for Doherty and his Redmen.
"I feel good," the coach said. "But we still have a long way to go. We're still learning, but we'll be fine."
The Redmen get only one day of rest before playing a non-league game at Stoneham Monday afternoon.