Newburyport hockey coach Paul Yameen has made so secret of his desire to play the toughest schedule of all the public schools on the North Shore, and his team’s holiday plans fulfill that desire.
The Clippers will return to the Cape Cod Freeze Out, which includes three other Division 1 teams, for the second year in a row Dec. 27 and 28. Last year, Newburyport delivered one of the highlights of its season over the holiday vacation by posting an overtime victory over Barnstable in the opening round. The Clippers then fell to perennial Super Eight contender Springfield Cathedral 4-1 in the championship game.
Newburyport’s victory over Braintree was arguably the team’s high point of the season. Braintree finished 19-5-1 on the season and earned the No. 3 seed in the Division 1 South bracket. Newburyport (12-4-5) had a mostly positive regular season before falling in the first round of the Division 2 North tournament.
“I think you look at game like these, and games against teams like Beverly and Canton, to measure if you’ve had a successful season,” Yameen said. “Those are the games you look back on. If you compete and play well, those are the best teams in the state. The state tournament is a one-game playoff, and we’ve been on both sides of the fence numerous times.”
Newburyport and Cape Ann League rival Triton both made moves from Division 2 to Division 1 this season. Yameen realizes if his team wants to advance in the state tournament this season, the Cape Cod Freeze Out is the type of environment in which it will need to thrive. If anything, Yameen will likely learn something about his team by the end of the trip to the Cape. Two of top Yameen’s four defensemen and his starting goaltender are all freshmen.
“Any time you can play a game team -- I don’t care what part of the season it is -- it’s better for your team,” Yameen said. “That’s the way I look at it. Win or lose, we expect to go down there and compete.”