It’s been nearly a decade since Bishop Hendricken pulled down consecutive hockey titles, but this could be the season that ominous streak ends.
The Hawks return arguably the state’s top player, senior captain and forward Pat Creamer, to command the ice. Creamer led Hendricken with 20 goals and 14 assists, while also earning the Championship Division Series MVP after leading his team past Mount Saint Charles for the state title in March.
He proved to be the Mounties’ undoing almost by himself. He finished off Hendricken’s Game 1 comeback with a goal that came within the last five minutes of the third period. He capped his junior season with a two-goal performance in the decisive Game 2 victory that allowed the Hawks to hoist the trophy.
He’s back for one more go in green, and there are few, if any, players in the state that can match up against him.
“It’s certainly a good feeling,” Jim Creamer said of Pat staying for his senior campaign instead of going prep. “He’s been a real consistent performer for the past three years. He’s a kid that can score, and more importantly he’s a senior. In high school sports, you do really well when you have a strong senior class. The fact that he chose to stay at Hendricken, as a coach I’m thrilled, as a parent I’m proud, it’s great. Hopefully he’ll have a great year.”
Creamer’s top-line mate Andrew Hopgood will also be suiting up for his senior season. Hopgood was tied for third on the team with 15 points off five goals and 10 helpers. Jim Creamer said he hasn’t yet determined who will join them on the first line, but junior Peter Krekorian is a candidate.
“It’s still up in the air,” Creamer said. “[Peter] played defense for us last year. He’s going to play forward. He might get a look up there.”
Sophomores Dan Cavanagh and Michael DiMascolo will anchor the second line while Jim Creamer puts the rest of his seasoned players in place.
“We’ve got a whole group of freshmen that didn’t have to be relied on to do a heck of a lot last year, so now they can come and offensively we’ve got some kids who are going to produce goals for us and be regular contributors,” Creamer said. “We only added two freshmen, and that’s sort of unusual in the mix of the last few years. We’ve had to take a bunch of freshmen, this year we take two. We’ve got a veteran crew back.”
Graduated goaltender Wyatt Alberigo, who recorded a .924 save percentage last season, won’t be one of those veterans coming back. Sophomore Patrick Gribbin will make the move to starter after sitting behind Alberigo and fellow senior Joseph Palmer in 2015-16.
Along with junior goaltender John McCarthy, the Hawks should have a seamless transition from one swift stopper to another.
“He’s going to be good,” Jim Creamer said of Gribbin. “John McCarthy is a good goalie in his own right. They’re both kids who are going to see time and be one of our strengths in net.”
Creamer won’t have to worry much about the blue line, either, as junior Matt Rickard will skate back to his spot as the top defenseman. He will have a solid complement alongside him, which will include Cam Duprey, Tyler Brown and Jacob Paolino.
Creamer spoke glowingly of Rickard, saying that he is the “best defenseman around.”
“I’d put him up against anybody,” Creamer said. “He’s going to have a very, very good year. We have a good group there.”
The new hockey realignment prevents Hendricken from seeing many of its more familiar Division I opponents for a few weeks, but it allows the Hawks to experiment with new lines and defensive pairings.
Hendricken opens this weekend with games against Prout and Cumberland before seeing Cranston and Burrillville next week. The Hawks have two difficult road contests ahead on Dec. 16-17, which features a Friday night tilt with La Salle and a Saturday night title series rematch with Mount.
After this weekend, Hendricken won’t see home ice again until 2017. The gauntlet should not be an issue for a team led by veterans who have seen it all to this point.
Everything, of course, except for back-to-back titles that they can deliver this time around.
“We’ve got a good group of seniors,” Jim Creamer said. “They all played a lot, they all contributed. That’s a comforting feeling, good place to start from.”