SOUTH DENNIS – There are only a handful of “sure things” that high school athletes experience during their careers. In all likelihood, one of those things will be that the team will go through some changes between seasons.
There is almost always a group of seniors who graduate and leave the team, and every so often a coaching change will take place and provide the players with a new leader to follow.
Cape Cod Tech’s boys hockey players currently have their hands full of change after their program with Cape Cod Academy joined Dennis-Yarmouth’s preexisting varsity program as a three-team co-op.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Steven Swanson, a Cape Tech junior from Brewster. “I played with a lot of these guys when I was younger, I’ve played with a lot of them my whole life. I love playing with them — they are a lot of fun and a great group of kids.”
The familiarity has certainly helped the players from the three programs mesh together under one D-Y-CCA-CCT Dolphins banner. Many of them grew up playing in the Yarmouth-Dennis youth hockey program or with each other on various club teams and are getting the opportunity to renew their friendships under the new arrangement.
“It’s definitely different,” acknowledged D-Y junior Aidan Powers, a Yarmouth resident. “I haven’t had to do this before, but I’ve played with some of the guys before on my club team [East Coast Thunder], so it’s not totally new. It definitely helps to have them.”
Players from all three schools contributed Saturday when the Dolphins earned a 5-4 overtime victory over Blue Hills at Tony Kent Arena. Powers netted a pair of goals — including the game-winner — while his linemate John Valerio, a CCA junior from Sandwich, fellow CCA junior Luke Spinner, a defenseman from Osterville, and Swanson all added goals.
Saturday’s win was the Dolphins’ second game back after COVID-19 forced the team to pause its game schedule for two weeks. They suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to Martha’s Vineyard on Jan. 5 in their return to play, and then dropped to 2-4 on the season following a 4-1 loss to Nauset on Monday night.
Although the team is working its way back from the pause, D-Y-CCA-CCT head coach Lew Alberti said after Saturday’s win that he’s been pleased with the way his players are connecting.
“The pause kind of rattled us a little bit just because we are three schools and a co-op. We had to regroup really quickly,” Alberti said. “They’ve bonded really well. We’re lucky that a lot of them play offseason hockey together or at least know of one another, so they are all familiar with each other.”
Still, even with that familiarity, there are adjustments to be made.
“It’s getting used to those habits and tendencies and knowing where each other is going to be on the ice,” Alberti said. “We’re still working on that. That’s a work in progress.”
It has helped that there is some familiarity on the bench, too. Curran Stockwell, who had served as head coach for the Cape Tech-CCA co-op, joined Alberti’s staff as an assistant this winter.
Stockwell said this year’s arrangement is perfect for the boys from all three schools, noting that it gives them all a great chance to be competitive.
“It’s the best possible thing for our program and I think [Alberti] would probably say the same thing,” Stockwell said. “The whole thing for me is I want to give the kids an opportunity to win games and be competitive.”
Stockwell admitted that he had been concerned about the future of the Cape Tech/CCA program for years leading up to the change.
“I’ve been worried every year for the past five years that we weren’t going to have a program,” he said. “I’ve been lobbying for this for a couple years. Maybe not necessarily this exactly, but to expand our co-op or to look at other options.”
It’s hard to imagine a better arrangement — at least in the eyes of Cape Tech’s players, who shared many of the same concerns their coach did.
“I was [worried] for a little while, but when I heard we were combining here, I was as happy as I could be,” Swanson said. “Whether I played with my school or play with them, I just want to play hockey.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal