Pictured last season against Milton, senior forward Ethan McDonough (22) will look to help lead the Walpole High School varsity boys hockey team to as many wins as possible during this unprecedented 2020-2021 season. Photos by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It's hard to believe that it's been nine months since the Walpole High School varsity boys hockey team last took to the ice on March 8, 2020.
Following an incredible Cinderella run through the Division I state tournament as the No. 12 seed, Walpole's season culminated in a 1-0 victory against Archbishop Williams to claim the school's first Division I South championship. The Division I state championship game, set to be played against Belmont at TD Garden on March 15, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
After nine months of sitting and dwelling about what could have been, the Walpole boys will look to pick up where they left off as the 2020-2021 season gets underway in the coming weeks. Even with no state championship to play for this season, it goes without saying that the Walpole boys are fired up to get back out onto the ice.
Walpole's grit and ability to out-will teams was put on full display in last season's state tournament after they won four one-goal hockey games to claim the sectional title. In 2020-2021, this blue-collar mindset should remain the same, thanks to a significant chunk of last season's core of players coming back.
Leading Walpole this season will be a trio of senior captains: forward Kevin McElaney, goaltender Jack Curran and defenseman Ben Quinn. Other key returners for Walpole include senior forward Ethan McDonough, junior defenseman Colin Birch, junior forward Declan Hunter and senior defenseman Joe Verderber.
"Some goals that the boys have are to defend our title," said Verderber when asked about his team's general goals for this unprecedented season. "Obviously, [we want to] win and have a good season all around."
When it comes to adjusting to the new rules put in place by the MIAA to combat COVID - such as no locker rooms and wearing a mask at all times - Verderber says it will certainly be a bit of an adjustment. However, Verderber also says that he and his teammates are ready for the challenge and are thankful for the opportunity to get back out on the ice together again.
"The masks are not that big a problem with me, but when they start to get wet it’s a little annoying," said Verderber. "I'm definitely going to miss the locker rooms. That’s where most of the good times are had; its where we bond as a team. It's going to be difficult missing some of the rivalry games we would normally play like against Norwood, but we're really just happy to get back out there and try to win every game we can."
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.