It’s not exactly easy to move on from losing one of the best players in the state, no matter what sport you’re talking about. But losing two? That’s asking a lot. Three? Well, that’s what Old Rochester/Fairhaven boys’ ice hockey is dealing with this season after graduating Noah Strawn and Sam Henrie, who led the state with 96 and 74 points, respectively, last year, along with Landon Goguen, who led all defensemen with 59 points, eighth overall in Massachusetts.
“You don’t lose those players and it not affect your team,” Old Rochester/Fairhaven coach Eric Labonte said.
At first, it wasn’t an easy adjustment, but the Bulldogs have turned things around and just in time to dominate league play, sitting 4-0 in the South Coast Conference (5-3 overall) heading into the matchup with Bourne.
But this is still not the 2016-2017 Bulldogs team that played at the TD Garden in Boston, nor will it be, solely because their identity has completely changed this year.
Last year, the team was built off the high skill level of Strawn, Henrie and Goguen. Although Tayber Labonte is ranked No. 11 in the state in points with 17, this 2017-2018 Bulldogs team runs more on hustle and effort – a much scrappier bunch as a whole.
“We’ve been working on different things,” Coach Labonte said. “We’ve been struggling with some of the skills in the game, trying to improve our passing and our receiving. Doing a lot of that in practice.”
Labonte is similar to the style of players that riddled the Bulldogs’ roster last year – having played third line – in that he relies heavily on skill, whereas his line-mate and the team’s No. 2 scorer, Ryan Raphael with 12 points, is a better representation of what the team is this year: someone who’s going to scratch and claw every second of the game to earn the win.
“Ryan’s not going to wow you with his offensive game,” Coach Labonte said. “But he’s that first kid that’s going to make contact on the forecheck. He’s going to do all the grinding. Ryan is that person that is a physical presence on our team and allows Tayber to freelance, basically. And he’s been producing. He’s a good leader and a good player for us.”
Although their record isn’t bad – and actually as good as it can be in the SCC – there is still room to grow. They haven’t quite met their preseason expectations, so one can only imagine the damage they’ll do once everything clicks.
“As of right now, I would say we haven’t exceeded my expectations,” Labonte said. “We’ve been working diligently in practice on skill. I think this team has a lot more to offer. And I think our practices have been designed to work on skill, giving and receiving passes – things we’ve been struggling on all year. I think the effort is there on a nightly basis by and large, but the execution hasn’t been pretty for us this year.”
Savanna Halle continues to impress the girls’ basketball crowd, scoring 22 points in Old Colony’s 55-36 win over Cape Cod Tech on Monday.
The freshman already set another career-high with the 22-point game, having been previously set at 20 points.
While she’s burst on the scene in a big way, Abby Cioper continues to be rock-steady for the Cougars, scoring 17 in the win. The tandem combined for six three-pointers in the win, three apiece.
On the boys’ side, the Cougars dropped to 3-3 after losing 79-73 to Cape Cod Tech on Monday. Zach Soucy and Jake Jason both had big scoring nights, dropping 28 and 29 points, respectively.
Boys’ squash suffered its first loss of the 2018 portion of the schedule, falling 5-2 to Deerfield Academy.
Aly Hussein continues to be the driving force as the Seawolves’ top player, taking down an opponent he’d previously beaten at the U.S. Junior Open in December.
Omar Kiwan, Tabor’s No. 2, had the team’s only other win.
Boys’ basketball improved to 6-1 on the year after a 78-60 win over St. Sebastian’s on Saturday. Local talent Noah Fernandes led all scorers with 27 points, while Chris Herren had 24 points.
High School Sports Update
By Nick Friar