CUMBERLAND — There may be a ‘D’ at the end of Cumberland, but when it comes to the high school’s hockey team, the ‘D’ has been front and center for the past several seasons.
After 11 games, the Clippers have surrendered a division-low 17 goals, and news of them being atop this department shouldn’t be anything new to those who follow the Division II circuit.
In eight of the last 11 years, the Clippers have ranked in the top three in the entire division in fewest goals allowed. Last year, they led the division with 28 goals allowed in 18 games, and the two winters before that, they finished second, both times to North Kingstown.
Thanks in part to their dynamic defense, the Clippers currently reside in first place in the Division II-North standings with a 7-2-2 record. Included in the victories was a six-game win streak that was snapped last Saturday in a tight 2-0 loss to South Kingstown.
“We really try to stress that everything starts from our end out,” noted coach Dr. Mark Andreozzi. “That’s the most important thing. We stress that if you secure your own end, everything else will take care of itself.”
Of course, having an excellent goaltender also helps, and the Clippers have arguably the division’s best in senior and three-year starter Michaelangelo Federici, who leads the league in goals-against-average (1.45), is second in save percentage by .002 of a point (.929), and has three shutouts.
“Mick has played great the last three years, so that’s helped a lot,” the coach added of Federici, who also led the division in GAA (1.28), save percentage (.944), and shutouts (seven) last season. “He has really done a great job.”
The Clippers also boast an excellent group of defensemen that features three veteran seniors, team captain T.J. Salisbury, Joshua Pora, and Greg Miller, junior Ryan Huber, and sophomore Robert DeOrsey.
“These guys have been playing since they were sophomores,” Andreozzi noted of Salisbury, Pora, and Miller. “They really kind of know what to do. With them, it’s just keeping them in key spots at times and making sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
While the Clippers’ defense ranks in the top of the league, offensively, they sit in the middle of the pack in goals scored. And while they amazing don’t have a scorer among the top 28 in the division’s leaders, they have quietly received balanced scoring from their top three lines.
Seniors Michael Ray and Chris Lambert join sophomore Andrew Dulac on the Clippers’ first line, while senior Josh Engels and Caleb Doherty team up with Michael Kinch on the second line. Kinch, who led the Clippers with 13 goals last season, and Dulac currently lead the team with six.
The third line also features seniors Derek Marshall and Andrew Barlow and sophomore Jaryd Dulieu, and Andreozzi has also been working sophomores Matt Rzemien and Elliot Ray and freshman Andrew Pluta into the mix.
“We don’t have a major goal scorer that has a knack for putting the puck in the net,” offered Andreozzi. “We have to work for our goals and we have to find a way to get to the net and do the things we’re supposed to do.”
The Clippers could have used a major goal scorer in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Rebels, who received a superb 35-save effort from sophomore Nathan Vandemoer that was the best performance of his young career.
“I’m happy with the wins,” Andreozzi admitted before his team’s win streak came to an end. “You gain some confidence with that, all knowing that the season’s not over yet. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You just can’t play well one game and lax the night, because you will get beat in this league.”
Last March, Cumberland reached the Division II finals, but was swept in its best-of-three series with Portsmouth, which claimed its first Division II title by squeezing out a 3-2 overtime victory in the opener and a tight 3-1 win in the clinching game.
While the Clippers would dearly love to return to the finals, they also know that they have to focus on the present. With only four weekends to go in the regular season, their schedule gets a lot tougher, starting with Friday’s clash with Division II-South co-leader Middletown (9-3) at Adelard Arena.
Also awaiting the Clippers is a difficult test with the team that sits just four points behind them in the standings, the Providence Country Day/Wheeler co-op team (6-4). After that duel comes the Prout School (7-4) and Division II-South co-leader Portsmouth (9-3).
“We have a tough road,” added Andreozzi. “We’re going back-to-back every weekend and we still have to play teams that we haven’t seen yet. It’s not an easy road, but right now, we’re just hoping to get better every day and learn from our mistakes and our successes.”