NEWBURYPORT — Talk to Newburyport hockey coach Paul Yameen over the course of the season, and he'll consistently drill home assessments of his team like "We're a work in progress," or "We're looking to get better with each game."
Rarely does he speak about his team as if it's even close to being a finished product.
Well, it's February, and the Cape Ann League season is over for the Clippers (9-5-4 overall, 8-3-3 CAL), and Yameen is starting to sound like a coach who likes his team heading into the state tournament.
"I think we're ready," Yameen said last night after his team's 6-2 victory over Amesbury (5-13-1 overall, 3-11-0 CAL). "We're ready to go on a roll here."
A late-season roll would not be unprecedented for the Clippers, who went 9-1 in the postseason with two sectional titles and a state title in 2009 and 2010. However, very few of the players on this year's team had roles on those teams. Last year, the Clippers fell to Masconomet in the first round.
However, unlike last year's team, which started 6-0, and then faded after an injury to captain Billy Boudreau, this year's team appears to be peaking at the right time. The Clippers were 6-0-2 over their final eight league games, dating back to Jan. 14. In the last month, their only loss came against Franklin (14-1-1), the top team in Division 2 South.
"I think we did well in a tough league," Yameen said. "I think any team in our league is capable of pulling off an upset. We didn't get the Cape Ann League title, but we have bigger fish to fry."
That has been Yameen's philosophy over his nine years at Newburyport. He is likely the only coach in Division 2 North to have won a state title (2009) in his career without ever winning a league title.
Last night, the Clippers dominated over the first two periods, taking a 6-0 lead before Amesbury scored two goals late. The third period served as an opportunity for Newburyport to clear its bench, likely for the final time this season.
The Clippers will play in the competitive Bresnahan Division of the Newburyport Bank Classic Tournament next week. They will open with a Division 1 foe in Bishop Fenwick (2-12-1) Monday at 7 p.m. at the Graf Rink. Saugus (10-6-2) and Lincoln-Sudbury (9-6-2) will also compete in the Bresnahan Division. The championship and consolation games will be played Feb. 24.
"We have four days of practice before Bishop-Fenwick," Yameen said. "They play a Division 1 schedule, so they'll be a tough team."
Amesbury will compete in the Gulazian Division with Pentucket, Matignon and Revere. Amesbury coach Chris Kuchar was unavailable for comment after the game. He has been struggling with a health issue, and he left the arena immediately after addressing his team.
Newburyport 6, Amesbury 2
Graf Rink, Newburyport
N — Cooper Hines (Payson Cahill), 1:18.
N — Dominic Ferreira (Hines), 14:59.
N — Tyler Cusack (Hines), 2:02.
N — Cam Roy (Ferreira, Ben Ventura), pp, 9:00.
N — Jared Bradbury (Tim Brennan), 9:06.
N — Bradbury (Travis Wile), 9:35.
A — Matt Salvatore (Zack Bolduc), 10:02.
A — Connor Stevens, 3:48.
Saves: A, Evan King 21, Jeff Bucyk 10; N, Dan Murphy 9, Brendan Barraclough 2.
Records: N (9-5-4, 8-3-3); A (5-13-1, 3-11-0)