PEABODY — If you believe what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said, that “you can’t win unless you learn how to lose,” then you have to believe that the Peabody Tanners boys hockey team’s ready to win.
“By that definition we should be state champions then,” laughed Peabody coach Mark Leonard. “Honestly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the way the kids have worked so hard. They’ve looked pretty good in drills and we have some kids who can shoot the puck, which we need because we have struggled the last two seasons to put the puck in the net. So far, for a team that didn’t win a single game last year, the attitudes have been extremely positive. Last year those kids got thrown into the fire, but I think this team can battle and win some games.”
The Tanners had arguably their worst season in program history last season, finishing 0-20. As if that record wasn’t bad enough, they were, truth be told, outplayed in every phase of the game. They scored a program-worst 27 goals all year, and allowed an astounding 170 goals, an average of 8.5 goals per game, another program worst.
But with nearly every player from last year’s team back for another varsity campaign, things are looking up for Peabody this season.
Peabody, which graduated only three seniors, is returning 18 players from last year’s roster.
The Tanners will be led a quartet of senior captains in defenseman Ryan Huber and forward Caleb Dollin, and forwards Nick Capillo and Connor McCarron, who served as junior captains last year.
McCarron (left wing), sophomore Nathan LePage (center) and Capillo (right wing) will man the first line, while Huber, Dollin and junior Nick Ricci along with freshman Andrew Sousa will be in the Tanners’ primary defensive rotations.
“Nick (Capillo) is a sniper who can score so I think that line will play off each other in a complimentary way,” said Leonard. “Andrew is a select player who should see time on defense. We also have a couple of big junior forwards in James Guiry and Michael Zarra and our goalie is also back. Lucas (DeMild) played every minute of every game last year and he is looking good. He took a beating last year with all these teams that we have beaten in recent years, really took a beating to us all year long.”
Other senior returners include forwards Jack Malcolm, Scott Chaplain and Dante Vargas and goaltender Matt Lockhart.
Junior returners include defensemen Austin Higginbotham and Adam Aylward. Sophomores Andrew Phillips and Chris Fabbo along with defenseman Brandon Perry are also returning.
Newcomers include seniors Eyan Fera and Michael Sabino, junior Alex Freedman, sophomore Anthony Bettencourt and freshman Luke Buckley.
The Tanners open the season next Wednesday against visiting Swampscott at McVann-O’Keefe Rink at 5:15 p.m.
Two non-conference games (both at home) are on the docket, the first against neighboring Lynnfield on Saturday, Dec. 29 at noon, and the other against Hudson on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 5:15 p.m.
On Saturday, Feb. 16 the Tanners travel to Valley Forum in Lawrence to take on Masconomet in the annual Bob Driscoll ‘Can Do’ Classic (3:40). They return home to McVann-O’Keefe to face off against cross-city rival Bishop Fenwick in the 33rd Annual Carlin Cup at 2 p.m. when the Tanners will hope to take back the cup after the Crusaders won their first cup since 2001, beating the Tanners, 7-1.
The Carlin Cup honors the memory of Charlie Carlin, considered by many to be the father of Peabody hockey, which began in 1912. Carlin coached the Tanners from 1947 to 1972, leading the team to 17 winning seasons and the 1952 North Shore Hockey League championship before suffering a fatal heart attack on the ice in the final game of the 1972 season.