Coming into the 2017-2018 season, Old Rochester/Fairhaven boys’ hockey wasn’t sure how its season would end up after graduating Noah Strawn, Sam Henrie and Landon Goguen, some of the state’s top players.
While they still had Tayber Labonte, who was 13th in the state last year with 54 points, the majority of this season’s roster didn’t have a ton of experience.
The South Coast Conference schedule remained fairly similar to 2016-2017; however, the postseason schedule had changed, with all Co-op teams being bumped up to the Division 2 tournament.
First, though, the Bulldogs had to take care of business in the conference, which came a bit more easily than they’d initially anticipated, winning the league with a 9-0-2 record (14-3-3 overall) with one game against Wareham left. Even Bourne, their top competitor in the conference, didn’t put up as much of a fight as Old Rochester head coach Eric Labonte expected.
“From before the season started, yeah I’m definitely surprised,” he said. “We lost major players from last year’s team and Bourne has like 15 juniors and seniors. They basically had everyone back and we lost key personal. So I was definitely surprised.”
Tayber Labonte has been a big reason why ORR/Fairhaven’s had continued success this year, scoring 25 goals with 22 assists (47 points, 11th in the state), along with Ryan Raphael, who has 13 goals and 19 assists (32 points) on the year.
But two players don’t make a team, so the Bulldogs needed to give some inexperienced players more time throughout the year and put an emphasis on what gets done during practice. Clearly that’s paid off.
“Really, practice time as the season progressed was important,” Coach Labonte said. “Getting kids comfortable with their new roles was what was important. And kind of a winning spirit, we’ve won the league over the last six or seven years. A lot of the times the kids even willed themselves to win even in games where we might be out-manned.”
With a program that’s had so much success over the past decade, a concern that might pop up is a sense of entitlement. Because of what team they play for, the rest of the SCC will bow down to them. But ORR/Fairhaven’s coach never witnessed any sign of that being the case.
“Even though I didn’t expect us to win the league, I certainly felt we could compete for a league title,” Labonte said. “Early in the season, when we beat Bourne 6-2, that was sort of a catalyst for us to realize that maybe I kind of short-changed these kids early in the season. After that win in the first game, you kind of realize real quick that we should be able to win the league again.”
But now comes the big test: the Division 2 MIAA tournament. Something not even ORR/Fairhaven’s coach has dealt with, with the program having competed in Division 3 over recent years. And while they realize there are tough teams at every division, ORR/Fairhaven expects every minute to be a challenge in the state tournament.
“At the Division 2 level, every game’s going to be a battle because we’re not overly skilled,” Labonte said.
ORR/Fairhaven will likely receive a favorable seeding heading into the tournament but won’t know for sure until the pairings are announced soon after the weekend.
Both Old Colony Cougars boys’ and girls’ basketball teams won the Mayflower Small Vocational Division and are looking to take home some more hardware in the State Vocational Tournament.
The girls (16-4) also won the Vocational Tournament in 2016-2017. They will play host to Franklin County Tech as the first seed on Thursday night at 4:00 pm. If they win, they will also play host again on Friday at 4:00 pm.
The boys (14-6) are looking for redemption after losing in last year’s vocational tournament. They’re also the first seed in their division and will host Worcester Tech at 6:00 pm on Thursday. If the boys win, they host once again on Friday at 6:00 pm.
Tabor girls’ basketball clinched a tie for best record in the Independent Schools League, with a chance to go undefeated in the conference when they take on the Middlesex School on Wednesday.
The Seawolves locked up a share of the league title after blowing past Lawrence Academy in a 91-59 win on Monday.
High School Sports Update
By Nick Friar