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Icebound ambition: Peabody-Saugus’ journey to forge independent hockey legacies

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By Dom Nicastro


On paper, it seems odd to push for a team to eventually break up. But that’s precisely what high school cooperative teams – which feature players from more than one school – see as the ultimate goal.

The Peabody-Saugus boys hockey team is no different. The primary aim of the cooperative team is to provide students passionate about hockey the opportunity to play, with a secondary goal of increasing interest and enabling both schools to eventually sustain their own teams. There’s no set time frame for this, but efforts are focused on building the right team culture to attract and retain local talent, encouraging players to stay and play for their hometown schools.

Although originally planned for two years (this season is Year 2), the cooperation will likely continue as needed to achieve these goals. “The goal is to build back both of these programs to the point where they can be sustainable by themselves,” said Peabody-Saugus coach Jason Marshall, who has served as head coach of the now two-year cooperative program. “I mean it’s two historically good programs; both Peabody and Saugus had some really good years (Saugus had three state titles in the late 20th/early 21st centuries). They were very good. So we’re just hoping to get to the point where we can build back these programs so they can get to the heights that they should be at. At this point, we just want to keep them both going. We’ve got to have a co-op, and it’s been good.”

The wins haven’t been there as much as the team would like. It was 3-17 last season and 1-6 after seven games this season. But Peabody and Saugus players have the opportunity to play hockey, and that’s the goal right now.

This season, the team is skewed toward Peabody students with approximately two-thirds from Peabody and one-third from Saugus. The program saw a drop in numbers compared to last year, partially due to the loss of many Saugus seniors.

Peabody sophomore goalie Evan Tybinkowski has been a major bright spot in the first third of the season. He turned away more than 50 shots in two recent games. He stopped 57 Marblehead shots in a 10-3 loss.

“Evan had 67 shots in that Marblehead game,” Marshall said. “He is seeing a lot of pucks. And he got some playing time for us last year as well when we were missing our starting goalie. So it’s nothing too new for him. But it’s definitely a struggle and a challenge that we’ve been facing. We’re trying to not have to rely on him so much. But he’s been, especially the past few games, just outstanding. He’s keeping us in games. Most of these saves that he’s had, he’s barely been able to see the shot in the first place; a lot of last-minute reactions. So he’s been fantastic for us. It’s another sophomore who’s going to get a ton of experience. So by junior-senior year, I mean, it’s gonna be fantastic.”

Tybinkowski certainly isn’t alone in the Young Department. Peabody-Saugus has four freshmen, nine sophomores, four juniors and four seniors.

“There’s good and bad to it obviously,” Marshall said of having a predominantly green team. “This year and last year we kind of have had the same issues where we don’t have a ton of kids with a lot of varsity experience. But on the flip side, they’re getting so much varsity experience from a younger age. So come their senior year, their junior year, they’re gonna have way more experience than most guys that we’re going up against.”

Saugus’ Ryan Jones and Peabody’s Michael Ryan and Trevor Pacheco serve as the captains and are among those seniors. It’s certainly a challenge captaining a team with someone from a different school and owning responsibility for a team’s cohesion and camaraderie whose players’ schools are split by miles of Route 1 highway. Marshall said he’s got a solid trio taking on those duties.

Jones of Saugus is a standout senior with an excellent personality and a knack for leadership, often taking charge by motivating the team with his endless optimism. Pacheco is a key defenseman. He’s not only vocal but also has a commanding presence, often being the one to energize the team before games and fiercely defending his teammates. Ryan, Pacheco’s Peabody classmate, is in his second year in this role. Known for his relentless drive during both practices and games, he has a way of elevating the team’s energy levels. Although he’s become more outspoken this year, his leadership style isn’t solely dependent on his words; his actions on the ice speak volumes about his leadership qualities, according to his coach.

Who else is making some noise on the ice for the Tanners?

Peabody sophomore forward Brandon Berone has been making significant strides. Despite initial struggles to make a notable impact on the scoreboard, his consistent effort in the offensive zone has paid off. In recent games, he has been exceptionally active, culminating in a hat trick against Marblehead.

Tyson Higgins, a junior from Peabody, has been impressive with his all-around gameplay, energetically battling for possession and contributing on both offense and defense. He’s become a reliable player.

Dominic Chianca, a senior defenseman out of Saugus, who joined the team from a different school, has been remarkable both in offense and defense, Marshall said. He plays extensive minutes and has become a dependable force for generating offensive opportunities.

Peabody-Saugus was scheduled to take on Pentucket in its lone game at Kasabuski Rink in Saugus on Wednesday, Jan. 17. It travels to Salem State University to take on Swampscott on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m. then hosts Minuteman in Peabody at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

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