The banner has been hung. All the hardware has been placed in the trophy cases. The celebrations of Tewksbury High's thrilling 2010-2011 Division 2 MIAA ice hockey state championship run are just memories now.
It's time for coach Derek Doherty and his Redmen to get back to work. And with a roster full of young and inexperienced players, Doherty's job may not be an easy one this winter.
"We're young," Doherty said. "This is probably as young and inexperienced a group as we've had in a while. We normally have at least 10 seniors on the roster. This year we have four."
Filling the shoes (or skates) of last year's graduating class will be no easy job. The Class of 2011 featured the likes of Merrimack Valley Conference/Dual County League Most Valuable Player Ryan Doherty, who led the league in scoring last year. Ryan Doherty is off to prep school at Northwood Prep in Lake Placid, where he's continuing his playing career and already talking to some Division 1 schools back here in New England.
Also playing prep school hockey this winter is the team's top defender from last year, Sean McLeod, who is at Tilton Academy. But the list of graduates runs even deeper than that, including state tournament hero Mark Petti, who scored the game-winner in overtime when Tewksbury beat Franklin, 2-1 at the TD Garden in the state championship game last March.
Center iceman Frank Mazzei is also gone, as are Mike Golini, Johnny DiGiorgio and Ryan Casey. All-star defensemen Robbie Pruyne and Sean Taylor also graduated, as did goaltender Niko Cunha, who was nearly unbeatable in the state tournament last March.
Doherty will be counting on junior center iceman Derek Petti, who was the team's second leading scorer last winter, to lead the attack. Petti will most likely be flanked by senior wingers Mike Casey and Chris Connors.
The second line will feature senior captain Danny Laddebush and junior Patrick Doherty. Matt Brady, a senior, and Shannon Alukonis, a junior, should also contribute.
Defensively, senior captain PJ Mugford is the only returning starter, and freshman Kyle Paquette is expected to be the team's starting goaltender.
"The defense is young," Doherty said. "Last year at this time we had four returning defensemen that were very good. This year we're trying to groom some kids."
Doherty's hope is to see constant development in his young team.
"We have some nice freshman and some nice sophomores who are going to contribute, hopefully sooner than later," Doherty said. "It's a typical Tewksbury team. We're asking the kids to work hard and so far they've responded."
The Redmen will not have an easy time defending their MVC/DCL Division 2 title this winter, especially because Boston Latin (second place last year) returns a veteran team. Lincoln-Sudbury, Concord-Carlisle, Methuen and Haverhill round out the MVC/DCL Division 2 schedule.
Tewksbury opens the season at Chelmsford on Wednesday night in a 7:50 p.m. game.
"We're young, there's no question about it," Doherty said. "But we remind them every day that hard work can beat talent, and that if you work real hard, good things can happen. We'll see how it turns out."