The young and inexperienced Tewksbury High hockey team opened up the defense of its 2010-2011 Division 2 state championship Wednesday night, and looked like, well, a young and inexperienced high school hockey team.
"We saw flashes of some good stuff and some not so good stuff and some breakdowns," said TMHS coach Derek Doherty after Chelmsford beat the Redmen, 5-2, at the Chelmsford Forum in the season opener for both teams. "I think the inexperience of the kids we have right now showed. This is a whole new group of kids, so right now, it's a learning process for them."
One thing the Redmen will have to learn how to do is take fewer penalties, as TMHS got whistled for eight different infractions and played a man down for much of the night.
Another thing the young Redmen will have to learn how to do is to finish their scoring chances. Despite being out shot, 38-15, Tewksbury did have several good scoring opportunities in the first and second periods, but failed to capitalize.
"We had a lot of chances in the second period but we were leaving the puck in front of the net," Doherty said. "We gotta be able to get those rebounds.
"I think we tried to get a little too fancy on the open shots we had," Doherty added."We tried to pick corners. We talked about that and told them it doesn't have to be pretty, just put it in."
Tewksbury also had difficulty clearing the puck out of its defensive zone at times. With senior assistant captain PJ Mugford the only returning starter on defense, the Redmen are especially young in front of freshman goalie Kyle Paquette.
"Our play in our defensive zone was not good," Doherty said. "But that's something we can fix. It's panicking and guys being unsure of themselves, and that will get better with time."
Chelmsford jumped out to a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period on a goal by senior forward Billy Kamenides. Tewksbury played the Lions even in the second period (shots were 7-7) but junior forward Drew Dawson scored with just 22 seconds to play in the period to give Chelmsford a 2-0 lead after two periods.
Junior forward Tommy Bishop all but put the game out of reach when he cleaned up a loose puck in front of the Tewksbury net just 3:07 into the third, but the Redmen did not go quietly.
Junior defenseman Patrick Doherty scored off the rebound of a Mugford slap shot on a powerplay at 5:23 of the third, but six minutes later senior forward David DeDonato restored the three-goal advantage for Chelmsford.
Tewksbury's Chris Connors got his first goal of the season with just under four minutes to go (Mugford and Doherty assisting) to make it 4-2, but Chelmsford's Danny Ferri scored an empty-netter with 48 seconds left to account for the final, 5-2 margin.
Junior forward Derek Petti and junior defenseman Mike Casey had strong games for the Redmen.
Doherty took Tewksbury's two-goal third period as a good sign.
"One thing we stress with our team is that we don't give up," Doherty said. "I don't care what the score is, you go out the next shift and you go at it."
The Redmen will continue to be put to the test Saturday when they host higly-regarded Boston Latin in their home opener at the Breakaway Ice Center in Tewksbury. The team will raise its Division 2 State Championship banner in a pre-game ceremony beginning at 7:10 p.m.
Doherty knows Boston Latin will present at least as many difficulties as Chelmsford did.
"I think everybody expects us to come out of the gate flying after the year we had last year," Doherty said. "But this is a young group of kids. Even the older ones are inexperienced. So it's gonna take a little bit of time for us to get better. But we will get better."