By Jim Sullivan
---- — The Newburyport hockey team will be well represented at the Bay State Games this year with four Clippers headed to the New England Sports Center in Marlborough in mid-July. That’s twice the number the Clippers sent last year.
“It’s always nice just making the team,” said senior Travis Wile, who along with junior Ben Ventura, made the squad for the second year in a row. “It’s also good that there are more of us this year. It’s always good to skate with your linemates. Last year with Benny, I had an awesome time, just to be able to work our chemistry a little bit.”
Wile and Ventura will once again be playing for the Northeast team and will be welcoming junior Matt Kelleher and sophomore Connor Brennan this year.
“I’m real happy about it, it’s a fun tournament,” said Ventura. “Connor Brennan made it as a freshman this year, which I thought was really good. He worked really hard to get it.”
The tournament will be played July 11 to 14 and is something that Clippers coach Paul Yameen encourages his players to go out for.
“We’ve sent a lot of good players over there in the tournament for the past few years,” said Yameen. “And they’ve had great experiences. It’s a good tournament.”
The four Clippers will be coached by Burlington assistant coach Bobby Conceison, who is returning from last year. That is one of the reasons Yameen likes the Games.
“I like it for numerous reasons,” Yameen said. “It’s good competition. There are kids there from all over the state. They probably get about 12 to 15 good, quality skates, which I believe is perfect for the summer months. And it’s a good showcase. There are a lot of eyes there, a lot of good coaches, and the time commitment doesn’t take away from their summer training.”
“It’s good to get some ice time over the summer but not overdo it,” said Wile, who plays right wing. “And being together with other kids on your team is another positive aspect of it. Last year, there were kids from prep schools and private schools, so it’s good competition.”
Ventura says the Games highlight a more finessed type of play with a lot less hitting and a lot more skill.
“It’s usually the best kids from the area,” said Ventura, a center. “So it’s fast-paced. There’s more skill and more speed. You’re playing with kids that you’ve never played with. So it’s good to have someone you have some chemistry with there. That helps a lot.”
“It’s good hockey, it’s solid hockey,” said Wile. “It is just a tournament, but we do play to win. It’s pretty serious. We play hard.”
Indeed the Northeast played hard enough to win the gold last year. Yameen says he will catch a game or two of this year’s tournament, not just to see his players, but also to see his nephew, Dylan Yameen, who plays for Methuen.