Recent milestones for Northfield High School’s Jackson Tucker, who recently notched his 200th career point, and Colchester playmaker Matty Cuce, who crested the 150-point mark, are evidence that the state still has its share of offensive maestros.
On any given night, Tucker (32 points this year) and Cuce (23) are capable of filling up the scorebook with multiple goals or assists. They do so routinely.
At Champlain Valley, Essex and BFA-St. Albans, three of the hottest teams in the Metro Division at the moment, the tally looks a little different: Anyone could score on any given night.
Four lines deep during last year’s run to the state final, the Redhawks (10-0-1) have rolled along with three lines this year and each has been productive. Ryan Keelan (nine goals, 10 assists) leads the team in scoring, but five others already have more than 10 points in their accounts.
Eleven CVU players have lit the lamp so far; 16 have a point of some kind. Coach Mike Murray prefers it that way.
“I look at (balance) as a luxury. The room is much happier when everybody is contributing. I think the chemistry becomes better, it’s a happier workplace, so to speak,” Murray said. “I love an uptempo game and you need everybody to contribute to be able to do that.”
Now a “middle-aged” group, as Murray calls them, the Redhawks are more experienced than last year’s young squad. Add to that their balance and talent, and the defense — backed by netminder Greg Talbert –has yielded only 10 goals in 11 games.
“I think we’re getting contributions from everybody and everybody’s made the next step,” Murray said. “The next progression is to be in the position we’re in now, I guess.”
Essex (8-2), too, has had 11 players find the back of the net at the halfway point of the season, while 10 have tallied for BFA (5-3-2).
Both squads have eight players with three or more goals this year, but none with more than six — the Hornets’ Joey Robertson and the Bobwhites’ Matt Needleman.
“The position we’re in, we’re very happy with,” said BFA coach Toby Ducolon. “Every week we’re either getting better or getting more out of an individual.”
The rapidly maturing Bobwhites’ record is a only a few bounces from rivaling that of the Redhawks. BFA’s three losses are each by a single goal — twice in overtime.
Ducolon’s team is the only group to hold CVU in check this winter and would have struggled to do so without its depth, he said, which includes a unique netminding trio with Sean Hengemuhle, Ben Thibault and Nate Muller.
“You’re never going to beat somebody better than you with two lines or four defensemen,” Ducolon said. “You’ve got to have that balance.”
Essex, meanwhile, has won six straight and is currently second in the Vermont Principals’ Association rankings behind CVU, whom the Hornets face Saturday afternoon.
After back-to-back losses against Beverly (Mass.) and Rutland, some “jockeying around” with line combinations have produced results, Hornets coach Bill O’Neil said. In Saturday’s 4-2 win over Colchester, the third line delivered three goals.
“All three lines are pretty even. It’s nice to know someone’s picking it up when others might not be getting the bounces,” O’Neil said.
The Hornets have needed the top-to-bottom lineup contributions while rebuilding the blue line corps after the graduation of five senior defensemen. Draining, two-way coverage couldn’t work with anything less.
“From the start we talked about working harder. You’ve got to play at a pace that’s uncomfortable for you,” O’Neil said. “If you can do that — there’s no guarantees ever — you’re going to have more success than you would otherwise.”