by Blake Krantz
Boys’ hockey fell 3-0 to Franklin in the third round of the state tournament Tuesday night, the end of a tournament run that “makes a statement for Newton North hockey” and the team’s ability to “compete with the best,” according to senior Thomas Joyce, a captain with seniors Mike Hart and Dante Leone.
“The pucks didn’t bounce our way,” Joyce added on the loss to Franklin.
For Leone, the Tigers could have used a better start and “played a little more physical” against a “fast” Franklin team to possibly win the game and advance even further, although the accomplishments of the team even before the third-round matchup proved to be the best of the “past 20 years,” Leone explained.
Leone attributed the team’s success in the state tournament overall to Joyce’s goaltending and depth throughout the entire team.
“What helped us a tremendous amount was that Thomas Joyce was an all-star every time we stepped on the ice. He was our MVP for the past two seasons, and if you don’t have a good goalie you have nothing. We also had three lines that we could roll throughout the game, and we were in good enough condition that if we had to shorten the bench, we had plenty of gas in the tank,” Leone said.
For coach Jamie Gresser, the Tigers also benefitted from strong senior leadership from Hart, Joyce, and Leone this season, from the very start of the year up until the season-ending loss to Franklin. “To say that their leadership will be missed is an understatement,” he stated.
Gresser also explained that, “the captains set a tone for this season that allowed everybody—returning players as well as new ones—to establish the kind of team play and team unity necessary for a deep post-season run.”
The team was motivated to return to the tournament for the second straight season this year, according to Gresser, and this will certainly be another “motivating factor” next year for the team, in order to “build on that success” in what would be a third-straight tournament appearance for the Tigers.
As the seniors graduate in just a couple months, long-time teammates may be split apart after this year’s state tournament run.
As Joyce put it, “for me personally, this year was extra special because it was my last time to play with all the kids I have been playing with since I was five years old.”
The Tigers’ mindset as a unit this season may also serve as a good model for future success as a team, an approach that Leone explained in detail.
“We came to every practice and game with the mentality that we weren’t always going to be the most skilled team, but that we could always be the hardest working team, and that carried us throughout the season and into the playoffs,” Leone said.
Finally, Gresser commended the Tigers on a memorable year on the ice. “The players have a lot to be proud of as they reflect on this season,” he said. “They accomplished a great deal together and the coaching staff is very proud of them.”