ORLEANS – The Cape Cod Tech-Cape Cod Academy co-op boys hockey team nearly went extinct.
After not fielding a team during the 2019-20 season due to a lack of players, the two schools, bonded by their shared mascot, the Crusaders, have returned to the ice during the Fall II season.
“I just feel lucky we’re able to have a season this year and lucky to get it in during the March-April window,” said Cape Tech-CCA coach Curran Stockwell, who also teaches English at Cape Tech. “If we had gone one more year without a team, it might have been the end of the program, so I’m just thankful we have this opportunity.”
The Fall II season is new this year due to COVID-19, and it was implemented so fall sports could have a season after they were canceled due to an uptick of COVID-19 cases during the late summer and fall. Cape Tech didn’t sponsor fall or winter sports, and its league, the Mayflower League, ultimately opted to push back the hockey season to Fall II.
The Crusaders opened their 10-game regular season schedule with a pair of matchups against a co-op team comprised of boys from Southeastern, Bristol-Plymouth and West Bridgewater on March 24 at Charles Moore Arena.
Even after suffering an 8-0 defeat in the season opener, Stockwell said he was proud to see his team skating again.
“I felt like the guys got better shift to shift and period to period, and that’s all you can ask for in your first game against a good team like that,” Stockwell said. “I’m just psyched to have 13 guys and I’m psyched to have a team. The last couple years have been tough — basically, all we had was seven guys and I was teaching some of them how to skate last year.”
Stockwell said in past years, boys from Cape Cod Tech would make up the bulk of the roster, with a limited number of players from Cape Cod Academy.
This year, however, the coach noted an influx of players from the academy, allowing the team to have balanced numbers and a strong core of players to build with.
“We usually only get one or two guys from the academy, but this year we’ve got seven guys,” he said. “So, we’re basically split half and half, which is awesome. Most of the guys are freshmen and sophomores. It leaves a lot of optimism for the future because we have a lot of kids.”
There is one senior on the team — Ezra Leary — a Hyannis resident and Cape Tech student who’s a standout goaltender. Leary was the star of the game against Southeastern/Bristol-Plymouth/West Bridgewater, finishing with 39 saves.
The netminder was forced all over the crease, and he dove every way he could to stop shot after shot after shot throughout the three periods of action. Despite allowing eight goals, Leary stole the show for his acrobatics.
“It was a lot of shots,” Leary said. “I definitely felt out of shape, but it was good to be back out there.”
Stockwell said Leary has been a leader for the program since he arrived as a freshman, and added “having Ezra in net means you have a chance in every game.”
The goaltender posted another strong game when the Crusaders returned to the ice for a rematch against Southeastern/Bristol-Plymouth/West Bridgewater on Saturday – an 8-1 loss that saw Cape Tech freshman Brecken Veara netted the team’s first goal of the season.
Being the only senior on the team is difficult for Leary, though there is some familiarity. He’s playing alongside his younger brother, Micah, a sophomore at CCA.
“I know their parents are super psyched they get to play together,” Stockwell said.
There’s only other one upperclassman on the squad, Charlie Perkins, a junior at Cape Tech.
“It’s weird being the only senior,” admitted Leary. “Charlie is a junior, but he’s also back from the team my sophomore year.”
As different as it is to be heading to the rink in March and April, the senior goaltender said he’s just happy to be playing again and that he hopes to make the most of his final year at Cape Tech.
“It’s the wrong season, so it’s a little weird that it’s going to get warmer as the season goes on,” Leary said. “But it’s good to be back out there. I just want to have a fun senior year.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org