At 6-feet, 5-inches tall and with tons of athletic ability, Patrick Feeley would be a welcomed addition to any high school basketball team in the state.
But Winthrop hockey coach Dale Dunbar likes the fact that Feeley has been keeping pucks out of the net for him instead of trying to put basketballs into a net.
Feeleyâ€™s 19-save effort in a tense 0-0 showdown with Peabody Saturday night was emblematic of the 16-year-old junior netminderâ€™s performance this season. Feeley and his excellent contingent of defensemen frustrated the Tanners all game. Two nights later, Peabody scored seven goals against Danvers.
Saturdayâ€™s goaltending gem was shutout No. 7 for Feeley this season and the 18th of his high school career. He was a Northeastern Conference All-Star while helping to lead the Vikings to the conference championship last season, falling one vote short of the Most Valuable Player Award â€“ a snub that still irks Dunbar to this day.
Feeley said his focus isnâ€™t on individual honors, but solely on Winthrop winning hockey games (the Vikings are 12-1-2) and making a run in a State Tournament. The big goaltender spreads the credit for Winthropâ€™s overall stinginess to a corps of strong, physical, puck-handling defensemen, including Brendan Fitzpatrick, Jake Rand, Kyle Cummings, Michael Paulson, Dylan Piwinski, Ryan McKinnon, and Jimmy Barker.
â€œMy defensemen are the reason why I can play for this team,â€ said Feeley. â€œTheyâ€™re great. They deserve as much commendation for all the shutouts as I do. There are very few rebounds. There arenâ€™t many odd-man rushes because of the speed of our defense.â€
Dunbar was asked what ingredients make Feeley one of the most respected goaltenders in the Bay State.
â€œI think itâ€™s a combination of a lot of things,â€ said Dunbar. â€œObviously, thereâ€™s his size, but he has agility, he prepares very well and heâ€™s a very serious goaltender. He goes through his routines before a game. Itâ€™s been a combination of everything â€“ team defense but also Patâ€™s preparation and skill level.â€
And Dunbar says that Feeley is a work in progress.
â€œThe thing I like about Pat is that he keeps getting better,â€ said Dunbar. â€œHe goes to his private goaltending coach as well, which shows a commitment level.â€
Feeley receives additional tutoring and tips from his uncle, Jim Feeley, a former Viking goaltending star and the teamâ€™s goaltending coach.
Feeley has shined as a goaltender since his days in the Winthrop Youth Hockey program.
â€œI think I played a year of Mites as a forward, but then I played goalie the rest,â€ recalled Feeley. â€œIâ€™ve been playing hockey with the kids on this team my whole life and thatâ€™s helped us out a lot. Weâ€™re a close-knit team.â€
Feeley said his height helps him inside the net. â€œItâ€™s definitely an asset. I donâ€™t have to worry about coming out of net as much and taking up as much space. I can usually use my height and reach to my advantage.â€
Feeley said Dunbar has helped him improve his approach to the game.
â€œI think Coach [Dunbar] has made us all mentally tougher and leadership wise, I learned a lot at his hockey camp [Leaders for Life Camp] last summer,â€ said Feeley, who hopes to play college hockey. â€œHeâ€™s a great coach. He really keeps this team together.â€
Dunbar said with Feeley in the net, heâ€™s confident that the Vikings can compete with any of the elite teams in the State Tournament.
â€œI think we can compete with anybody, especially the way we play team defense,â€ said Dunbar. â€œWe donâ€™t give up much. For us, itâ€™s a game to three (goals). If we can get to three, I feel great about it, because weâ€™re not going to give up much more than that.â€