PEABODY — The Newburyport hockey team is making it difficult to remember a time when it didn’t routinely clinch state tournament berths at the end of January.
The Clippers stamped their ticket to the state tournament for the ninth year in a row Saturday with a 5-1 victory over Lynnfield at James McVann-Louise O’Keefe Memorial Skating Rink in Peabody. It was never really much of a game, as the Clippers (8-1-4 overall, 7-0-1 CAL) took the lead on a Tyler Cusack goal 42 seconds into the game and played out the string from there.
Cusack and Nate Hickman scored two goals each. Andrew Williams added another.
Newburyport appears to be on its way to its first CAL title in Paul Yameen’s 10 years as coach, as the Clippers lead second-place Triton (9-4 overall, 6-2-0 CAL) by three points heading into the final four games for each team. However, Saturday was a prime example of what the Clippers have been facing against CAL foes all season. Lynnfield (0-11-1, 0-7-0) was overmatched, and the Clippers struggled to remain focused for 45 minutes.
“We’re trying to stress being consistent,” Yameen said. “We can’t look at the competition. We have to go in with the mindset that we want two points. I don’t think we played well for three periods, and we need to be more consistent.”
Looking at the Newburyport program from a broad perspective, consistency has been the theme during Yameen’s tenure as coach. He took over an undisciplined program prior to the 2003-04 season. The previous winter, the Clippers went 7-11-1 and averaged close to 15 penalty minutes per game.
Yameen overhauled the program with assistant Jed Beauparlant, and the Clippers went 4-15-1 in their first season in 2003-04. Newburyport has not missed the state tournament since, logging a record of 117-51-32 over the last nine seasons.
“Kids buy into our program,” Yameen said. “It’s year-round; it’s not a three-month program. The kids make the commitment, and it shows. We’ve got depth, we’re fit, and we’re a strong team. With strength and speed comes confidence. That makes a big difference.”