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.