Pictured last season against Bellingham, senior defenseman and returning captain Kevin McGough (13) will look to help lead Westwood High School boys varsity hockey to a TVL championship in 2020-2021. Photo by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The 2020-2021 MIAA hockey season is set to get underway and Westwood High School is ready to make a lot of noise in the Tri-Valley League.
Last season, the Wolverines finished the regular season 10-8-2 and earned the No. 14 seed in Division II South. Following a 3-2 double-overtime win against rival Norwood in the first round, Westwood's season came to a bitter end with a 3-2 overtime defeat to Medway in the quarterfinals.
In a year where COVID-19 has forced the MIAA to limit schedules, cut the state tournament, and enforce a plethora of rule changes, this season promises to be extremely unconventional. Nevertheless, high school hockey is back. The chance to exorcise some tournament demons might not be there, but the boys from Westwood are ready to take advantage of the opportunity to compete together again.
Leading Westwood in 2020-2021 will be a trio of senior co-captains: defenseman Kevin McGough, right winger Colin Fahey and centerman Nick Horsfall.
"[This season] definitely isn’t what we wanted with there being no state tournament, but we’re still lucky to get some games in," said McGough when asked of his team's mindset heading into the new season. "Our main goal is to the win the Tri-Valley League championship. Each year our coaches make a list of goals, which are always to qualify for the tournament, win the TVL and make it to TD Garden [for the state championship game]. Obviously, two of these options are off the table this year, so winning the TVL has become our main goal. With such few games this year, losing is going to have such a huge impact on the standings, so that’s definitely a huge driving factor to make this year as memorable as possible, especially with so many guys returning on the squad."
When it comes to the rule changes implemented by the MIAA to combat COVID-19, McGough says there will be no excuses. Every team in the league is going to be dealing with the same adversity, and the Wolverines plan to hold each other extra accountable. McGough also says he and teammates are training extra hard in preparation for the season in order to maintain a constant high level of intensity.
"Hockey in general has had to make tweaks to combat the virus and keep the rinks open," said McGough. "Wearing masks on the ice is obviously something new and although it’s uncomfortable and harder to breath in, the boys have adjusted to this change and are still looking good. A change that has been frustrating has been being unable to use locker rooms. This leads to guys either getting dressed at their houses, in their cars, or in the parking lot. This is tough because such a crucial part of the game is the atmosphere before we hit the ice, from the music in the locker room, to the stretches inside, and the pre-game speeches. Without this, the game has felt different and it takes more to get guys into that 'going to war' mentality. I am guessing that the on-ice feel is going to be a bit different because without playoffs, and being unable to use locker rooms, some teams may not take the game as seriously or play with as much passion. This is a problem that the captains and I are getting around by having high-intensity captains practices and keeping guys accountable for each other's play."
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.