---- — Two weeks ago, the Newburyport hockey team took the ice against Winchester in the program’s first ever postseason game at the Division I level.
Winchester, a team that went 11-5-5 in a tough Middlesex League, came into the game as a heavy favorite. The Sachems had already beaten Arlington, Wilmington and Hingham, tied Reading and played competitive games against St. John’s Prep and the three-time defending Super 8 Champions Malden Catholic earlier in the season.
Just for good measure, a few days before facing Newburyport, the Sachems took a two and a half hour drive down to New Haven to face Hamden High School, historically one of the top programs in Connecticut, and blasted the Green Dragons 5-0 on their home ice.
Despite having reached the state tournament 10 consecutive years, a lot of people thought Newburyport was in over its head at the Division I level and wouldn’t stand a chance against Winchester. That was the perception within the program at least, and the Clippers played like they had something to prove.
Newburyport dominated Winchester early, and after falling behind 2-0 the Clippers came back with two quick goals to tie the game early in the third period. After the game, head coach Paul Yameen said he felt his team beat Winchester in every facet of the game except one, the scoreboard.
Winchester wound up winning 3-2 after senior Brendan Greene scored to put his team up for good with about 12 minutes left, and after the final buzzer sounded, the players left the ice visibly distraught, heartbroken that their season had come to such an abrupt end.
Sitting in the stands at the Stoneham Rink that day was Chris Wile, the father of Newburyport senior captain Travis Wile and a man who has probably watched more Newburyport hockey over the past decade than anyone except perhaps the coaches themselves.
Wile has watched each of his three sons move through the program over the last eight years, starting with his oldest son Jeff, then Connor and finally Travis. He was there to celebrate when the team won the Division II State Championship in 2009, and for the past four years he’s been there to share the team’s frustration after each successive one-and-done disappointment.
Through it all, he’s gained a perspective that what his sons and the rest of the players ultimately take with them from Newburyport hockey isn’t just the on ice results, but the life lessons learned along the way.
“The coaching staff, Paul Yameen, Jed Beauperlant, Jeff Stone and Jeff Guadaditis, have had such a positive influence and effect,” Wile said. “The Newburyport community is very lucky to have a group of coaches who not only coach on the ice, but year round are a part of their lives both academically and healthwise.”
Wile pointed to the way the coaches keep an eye on the kids throughout the year, making sure they eat right and work on their cardio. He praised the way they spend time with the players in the weight room, even during the offseason when other coaches haven’t even begun to think about the upcoming season.
He recalled the way his oldest son Jeff was welcomed as a part of the program for four years, even though he’d been diagnosed with a heart condition going into high school and was never able to play. Then he recalled how as a senior, coach Yameen put Jeff in for a shootout during the Newburyport Bank tournament, and how special a moment it was when he scored.
Even after his illustrious four-year playing career, Travis said watching his brother score that goal remains his all-time favorite hockey memory.
“When he got in the shootout of the Bank Classic and scored that goal, that was probably the thing I’ll never forget,” he said.
Wile said that the way the team responded after falling into a 1-4 hole early in the season was nothing short of remarkable, and that the team deserves a lot of credit for silencing their doubters during their inaugural Division I season. The same goes for the way the team played against Winchester, a team he said a lot of people felt Newburyport had no business competing against.
Now that his family’s time with the program is over, Wile said it’s bittersweet knowing he won’t get to see his sons don the Newburyport colors anymore, but he’s thankful for everything the program has done for them and glad that more kids will continue to benefit from Newburyport hockey in the years to come.
“I’m really going to miss this hockey program,” he said. “And especially those fantastic coaches.”