The South Burlington High School boys hockey program deals with prep-school defections seemingly every winter. This year was no exception, with a couple of standouts opting for a path many players in Vermont consider.
Tommy Royer decided to stay put, drafting a one-year, high school-slanted bucket list that he aims to complete by graduation. Included in Royer’s missive is helping the Rebels boys hockey team do something it hasn’t done in seven years: Get past the Division I quarterfinal round.
“It’s become kind of personal with me. I want to help break the curse,” Royer said. “It’s tough to leave when you think you have unfinished business. That’s what I’m feeling.”
Shortly after last year’s 17-win campaign was soured by a double-overtime, home quarterfinal loss to North Country, Royer, with guidance from his parents, drew up his senior-year plans, invested reasons to return to South Burlington. From winning a team state championship in cross-country running to playing more of a role on the baseball team to honoring his role as class vice president, Royer is committed in his final year in Rebel blue.
“I want to have an impact on our school and our hockey program,” said Royer, who checked off one of those items in the fall when the Rebels won their first boys cross-country crown. “I feel like I couldn’t have gotten these things done if I went to play hockey somewhere else.”
A Burlington Free Press’ second-team all-star a year ago, when he recorded 23 goals and 16 assists, Royer’s production goes beyond the score sheet, coach Sean Jones said.
“He’s a hard-working kid and he’s not afraid to get on anybody. Without having a letter on his shirt, he’s been a vocal leader for us, a role model,” said Jones, in his 11th year at the helm of the Rebels. “He’s just the kind of kid we need to have for our young kids to model what he does.”
And with forwards Gabe Simpatico and Matt Baechle, Royer (eight goals, three assists) is part of a first line that is producing at a high rate for the Rebels, who are 4-1 after blanking Stowe on Monday.
“His line, in particular, has been our most solid line, and he pretty much anchors that,” Jones said.
Royer is also climbing the program’s record books, sitting at fourth in goals (32) and tied for fourth in points (80). But individual milestones will only be added bonus to a deep postseason run.
“It’s all about getting out of the quarterfinals. After that, the possibilities are endless,” Royer said. “It’s just getting over that one hump.”