NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 12, 2013

Endangered species: 100-point scorers

Local teams experience drought for players joining Century Club

Dan Guttenplan
On Hockey

---- — Just a few years ago, an influx of local hockey players surpassed the 100-point mark for their respective careers, forcing us to question whether the Century Club could still be considered exclusive.

These things have a way of evening out, and with a few more seasons to balance out the sample size, there is no longer a question as to whether scoring 100 points signifies a great high school career.

No Newburyport, Amesbury, Triton or Pentucket hockey player eclipsed the 100-point mark last season, and it seems likely that no player will achieve the feat this season either. This comes on the heels of a surge in Century Club admittance from 2007 to 2012 when seven players from Newburyport alone cracked the 100-point mark.

The last local player to join the prestigious Century Club was Triton’s Nate Williamson in February of 2012. From 2007 to 2012, Newburyport saw Max Bayko, Kyle Roback, Derek McCoy, Kevin Holmes, Kyle McElroy, Derek Freeman and Cam Roy break the 100-point mark. Perhaps not coincidentally, Newburyport won a Division 2 state championship in 2009 and returned to the state-title game in 2010.

“If you look at those guys, they all played together,” Newburyport coach Paul Yameen said. “We had a very good team at the time. It has a lot to do with the people that play around you.”

The difficulty of reaching the 100-point mark is that it requires — at the very least — three extremely productive seasons, and more likely, four consistent campaigns.

Consider as an example Triton senior Kyle Hillick, who is coming off a 35-point junior season. He didn’t play varsity as a freshman and tallied only six points as a sophomore. Now, one of the top forwards in the Cape Ann League will need a historically productive output — 59 points — to reach 100 for his career.

“Kyle’s a guy who will probably play in college, but he just didn’t have the numbers early in his high school career to get to 100,” Wile said.

Newburyport junior Ben Ventura and Amesbury junior Tabor Smith fit the description of players who found the scoresheet as early as their freshman seasons. Local coaches seem to bristle about revealing exact stats for players that may approach 100 later in their careers, but Yameen estimated Ventura needs about 60 over his final two seasons. Smith, a returning All-Cape Ann League forward who led the Indians in scoring as a freshman and sophomore, will need more than 50, according to Amesbury coach Chris Kuchar.

“The game has changed, both with systems and coverages,” Kuchar said. “Goaltenders seem to be more athletic and specialized, and their equipment is better.”

With the jump to Division 1 for Newburyport and Triton, it figures to become more difficult for freshmen to earn ice time. Both programs have year-round strength and conditioning programs, creating more of a size advantage between the 14-year-old freshmen and 17-year-old seniors.

“A kid who’s 14 has a hard time handling upperclassmen,” Wile said. “It’s a tribute to our strength and conditioning. To get to 100, you have to get at least 20 your freshman year. Now, we’re playing a much higher-caliber schedule, and you can’t bang out a four- or five-point night three nights a week.”

In making the switch to Division 1, both Newburyport and Triton have added six games against Division 1 opponents per season to their respective schedules. In those instance, the coaches sacrifice opportunities for players to pad statistics in lopsided games against inferior competition.

“Who is going to put up four or five points against Beverly, Arlington or Burlington?” Wile said. “Division 1 teams have three strong lines, so you can’t match your guys up against freshmen and sophomores to bang in points.”

In an effort to offset the transition from eighth grade to high school for his potential players, Yameen has opened his strength and conditioning program to Newburyport eighth-graders. His next wave of 100-point scorers may be entering the program this season. Yameen’s coaching staff selected five freshmen for this year’s varsity team.

“There’s certainly a couple that will see ample ice time,” Yameen said. “I don’t think it’s impossible for a freshman to contribute right away. We spend time with them as eighth-graders, and the physical aspect is huge. If you get a year under your belt, and another three months in the fall of your freshman year, it makes a huge difference.”