Pictured moving the puck through center against Needham, senior captain and forward Kevin McElaney (6) was recently named a Bay State Conference All-Star for the second consecutive season. Photo by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Throughout the last few years, few high school hockey players in the state of Massachusetts have meant more to their respective teams than Jack Curran and Kevin McElaney did for Walpole.
As juniors in 2019-2020, Curran and McElaney helped orchestrate the Walpole boys' magical run to the Division I South championship. Curran's efforts in net throughout the D1 South playoffs were nothing short of spectacular, pitching a .938 save percentage and allowing just four goals in Walpole's four playoff games. Curran capped off the playoff run with a 23-save shutout against Archbishop Williams in Walpole's 1-0 win in the sectional championship game. McElaney, meanwhile, racked up a team-high 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) as one of Walpole's top-six forwards. To no surprise, McElaney and Curran were both named Bay State Conference All-Stars.
After their state championship game against Belmont scheduled for March 10 of 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19, the Walpole boys were forced to wait until January of 2021 to return to the ice. With two reigning conference all-stars back to lead the group in Curran and McElaney, expectations for Walpole in 2020-2021 were high, despite there not being a state tournament and the season being condensed to just 10 conference games. Curran and McElaney were elected to serve as two of Walpole's co-captains, alongside fellow senior forward Ben Quinn. The trio entered this unprecedented season determined to prove that the run to the Division I South in 2019-2020 title was no fluke.
In the 10 games, McElaney produced two goals and two assists, while Curran racked up four shutouts in net, leading Walpole to a final record of 5-3-2.
On April 1, Jack Curran and Kevin McElaney were named Bay State Conference All-Stars for the second consecutive season. Obviously, this was not the conclusion to their high school tenures that McElaney or Curran had in mind after winning the Division I South championship in March of 2020. These two athletes could very well have won a state championship as juniors, and then had the chance to repeat as seniors - had it not been for COVID. Instead, Curran and McElaney will always look back on their high school hockey days with a sense of "what if?" Nevertheless, going out as conference all-stars is an extremely admirable consolation - and one that goes beyond a simple recognition for effort. These two boys played the right way and led the right way during a time when tomorrow was never guaranteed.
"I feel fortunate to have been able to have a season this year, considering the circumstances," said McElaney when asked about the recognition and the experience of playing a varsity sport during a pandemic. "I think it’s important to be thankful for the memories that we have as a team, rather than think about what could have been. This year was not how I pictured my senior year to go. However, I am lucky to have been able to spend my last four years competing for Walpole High hockey."
"The cancellation of last years state championship along with the shortened season this year is definitely a disappointment," said Curran. "However, I believe this year we used the short season to really develop ourselves as seniors on the ice as well as better prepare next year's team to hopefully go out and compete for another state title. As far as the conclusion to my high school career, it’s a little sad four years went by fast, but it’s put me in a position to continue to chase my dream of hockey, and getting awarded Bay State Conference All-Star is a great honor."
Asked about what they will remember from their time at Walpole, McElaney says he cherishes the lessons he learned from those who came before him, and that he will always be thankful for the sense of community Walpole High hockey has provided him. Curran, meanwhile, says the run he and his teammates went on in 2019-2020 down in Bourne will be what sticks with him forever.
"I will always remember the time I was able to spend with my teammates over my four years," said McElaney. "I will also remember the sense of community I felt seeing the Brigade packing the stands. I’ll remember Coach Dowd’s pregame speeches and our incredible run we had last year. Finally, I’ll remember looking up to my older teammates, who showed me how to be a leader."
"Something I will always remember is how the entire town and high school truly rallied behind us during our run in the playoffs last year," said Curran. "It gives me chills just thinking about hearing my name being chanted by 600-plus kids down at Gallo Arena. I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life."
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.