PEABODY — When the Bishop Fenwick boys hockey team fell to 5-9-1 on the season in early February it looked as though its state tournament hopes may fall short for a third straight year.
But not to the Crusaders and senior captain Derek DelVecchio, who finished off the season perfectly.
“This season we knew we had just been getting unlucky early on and had to keep working,” DelVecchio, from Saugus, said. “But toward the end of the season here we started finding the back of the net more and working together.”
With help from the leadership of their seniors and production from all three lines, the Crusaders closed out the season with five straight wins and outscored their opponents 32-3. Fenwick capped the run with a 9-1 win in the Carlin Cup over crosstown rival Peabody Monday to clinch a tournament berth.
“I’m so excited for this team,” DelVecchio, a forward, said. “After being knocked out of the playoffs my freshman year and then not making it back it’s great to have a chance to be back into the tournament and have a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Fenwick coach Jim Quinlan knew it was only a matter of time before the puck started bouncing the Crusaders’ way and he’s proud of his team’s improvement through the season.
“The last two years we haven’t been in the tournament,” Quinlan said. “We have just gotten better and better over the years. We were down and then we won five in a row. It shows so much character for these guys because their backs were to the wall and they knew they wanted to get in the tournament.”
Quinlan points to the Crusaders senior leadership, including DelVecchio and co-captain Ethan Belt, along with all three lines stepping up to close out the season.
“It’s a good turn around for Bishop Fenwick because we have always lost,” Quinlan said. “It’s good that we are getting recognized. We have really been getting it from all three lines here to close out the season. We have Derek’s line, our second line and they can score at anytime when they are on the ice. All the seniors have helped lead this team to this point.”
DelVecchio, a three-sport athlete who also plays football and lacrosse at Fenwick, was also a captain his junior year on the ice and carried over a lot of what he learned last season.
“I was a junior captain last year and from those seniors I learned how to lead the team and all of that stuff,” DelVecchio said. “My main goal this year was to stay positive and tell my teammates to keep working hard. Our work ethic is amazing. We just keep on working no matter the situation.”
DelVecchio believes the Crusaders finally started playing together and that was one of the keys to closing out the season and making a playoff push.
“We definitely started to put a focus on forechecking and keeping our shifts quick,” DelVecchio said. “We are playing together as a team right now more than we have before. We move the puck fast and try to get shots on net.”
With their goal of reaching the tournament accomplished, the Crusaders now focus on looking to carry their momentum into the playoffs. DelVecchio knows Fenwick will have to keep its offensive game crisp in order to win at the next level.
“We’re getting ready for that next challenge now,” DelVecchio said. “We are going to be focused on getting pucks through traffic and being physical from start to finish. We want to make crisp passes and just be quick with the puck. It’ll take hard work from everyone.”