It’s hockey time, and life is good at the MV Ice Arena for Vineyarder boys hockey Coach Matt Mincone and his charges.
Coming off a turnaround 12-6-3 campaign and a visit to the state tournament in 2018–19,
Coach Matt Mincone, in his 22nd season here, greeted 30 skaters last week at the opening of practice. “That’s something, those numbers, that I have never experienced before,” he said this week.
Last year’s success probably helped numbers. And Mincone has opined in the past that turnout picks up when the Boston Bruins have a big year, and the B’s went to the Stanley Cup final last season. Or it may have been the effect of an undefeated Island youth hockey program that dominated its Midget league this fall through the efforts of many varsity players.
Whatever caused it, Mincone’s loving it. “We have a full varsity squad and a complete junior varsity team, and that’s exciting,” he said.
Mincone lost five seniors to graduation, and has five seniors, including captains Kenny Hatt and Colby Zarba, a four-year starter. He’s also got five freshman (“You’re going to like watching them,” he said) along with 13 juniors and sophomores, including lights-out soph goalie Graham Stearns, who gave up less than a goal per game in the just-concluded Midget season.
“They picked up where they left off last year, and a lot of our varsity players played Midget. It’s good they got to play together, and the team seems to be a step ahead in practice and scrimmage this year,” he said, noting that the team has literally had one practice and three scrimmages before embarking on a seven-game regular-season schedule in December. “That’s as crowded a schedule as we’ve ever had,” Mincone said. The season opens on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6 pm on the road at Sandwich High School.
Mincone is a fan of playing up, scheduling quality opponents, and has a pair of top sectional seeds from last season’s state tourney, Newton South (No. 1, D3 North) and Hanover (No. 1, D3 South), on the schedule. The Vineyarders played a three-team scrimmage last weekend, losing to Lexington in a close one, and tying Oyster River (N.H.) and Acton-Boxboro.
“Everybody played. We were still picking varsity players on Saturday. We played well for the most part. It was interesting to watch our defense. We don’t have Ian Trance [a 2019 captain, now graduated] but you can see his influence, how he helped form Kenny Hatt, Jackson Pacheco, and Hoffie Hearn, how to play and how to be a leader.
“I want to be an optimist. I think defensively we’re gonna be strong,” Mincone said. “We have those three senior defensemen and Eli Gundersen. We have plenty of firepower. We just need to score goals. We have Zarba, Aiden Marek for the full season, Hunter Meader, and Pete Gillis is really strong.
“I really wanted those scrimmages last week after only one practice, to see how they would play. Lexington, for example, is a much bigger team — one guy was 6 foot 4 with a moustache — and I saw no fear, our kids got after it, they weren’t shying away from contact. I think they are ready, that everybody grew up last year.”