By Cary Shuman
From this day forward, any time a member of the 2008-9 Winthrop High School hockey team enters Larsen Rink, he’ll see the year “’09” on the Northeastern Conference Champions banner in the rink.
That’s one of the principal messages that head coach Dale Dunbar conveyed to the players, coaches, parents, cheerleaders, and guests at the team’s awards banquet Sunday at the Lodge of Elks.
The achievement of winning the Northeastern Conference title places this year’s team among the elite in the program’s proud history, right up there with the 1976 state championship team and the 1972, 1978, 1979, and 1981 teams on which assistant coaches Mike Eruzione (’72) and Michael Norris (’81), and head coach Dale Dunbar (’78, ’79) were players.
And the accomplishment of yielding 19 goals in 20 games, including seven shutouts, may put goaltender Pat Feeley and the 2009 contingent atop the list of best defensive teams ever in Viking history. How Feeley, a talented 6-foot-5-inch sophomore, wasn’t voted the Most Valuable Player in the conference is a bone of contention with Dunbar and one he told the assemblage that he will address in years to come on the ice.
The 17-1-2 record and the No. 1 ranking in Division 2 say a lot about an unheralded team in the pre-season that ultimately gained some Super 8 consideration late in the season. An unlucky draw in the State Tournament – Winthrop drew a bye and then faced one of the hottest teams [eventual state champion Newburyport] in its first game – would derail the Vikings’ hope to join the 1976 club in history.
“We had outstanding leadership,” said Dunbar, crediting the example set by seniors Ricky Boudrow, Robbie Martino, George Costa, Ken Hodgkins, Paul Finn, and Dan Shannon.
The man with the ‘C’ for captain on his jersey, Boudrow had a superb season, the crowning chapter in an All-Star career. Boudrow accepted the Keating Award at the banquet, the program’s most prestigious honor. “Ricky was our captain and a three-year All-Star and the face of our program,” said Dunbar. “He’s been a top defenseman for the past two years and he’ll go down as one of the best ever to play in the program – his name will always be always at the top especially when it comes to defensemen.”
Shannon, an assistant captain who played hurt on occasion, was a true clutch player, said Dunbar. “He scored some big goals and was everything you want in your leader,” added the coach.
Costa, an NEC All-Star, was the tempo setter, an assistant captain who made sure everyone in the lockerrom was ready from the opening faceoff. Costa exemplified the great character and togetherness of the seniors, according to Dunbar. Martino set the tone for the Vikings’ physical play with his hard-hitting style.
Finn was a hard-working player who complemented the league’s best defensive corps.
Dunbar emphasized that the 2009 team reinvigorated the program and restored the glory associated with Winthrop High hockey through the years. “We’re very proud of finishing with the No. 1 seed and the best record in the division, especially when you consider we only won six games the year before,” he said. “It was a great season. There have been a lot of Winthrop teams that have had great seasons, but any team that finishes with their year on a banner has to be considered a top team because you won the conference.
“But I think this team was special in that they weren’t picked to be a top team at the beginning of the year. We knew we had talent, but I don’t think anyone could foresee the season that we had. It’s the kids who worked hard every day – their work ethic and their approach, that’s why we got it done.”