MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Bob Conceison Jr. stepped into his team’s locker room on Thursday morning at the New England Sports Complex, he saw a group of bleary-eyed hockey players. After 20 minutes of play, the Burlington High assistant coach saw his Bay State Games Northeast team come to life and, perhaps, come together.
His team went on to win the gold medal in the scholastic boys’ hockey competition, outlasting a Metro team in a shootout after skating to a 4-4 tie in regulation. The accomplishment was familiar territory for eight of Conceison’s players who earned MIAA state championship medals with their respective Burlington and Wilmington High School squads.
“They’re obviously an experienced and a talented group,” Conceison said after his team’s 8-7 first-round win over the Southeast team on Thursday.
On a team rife with talent from a host of the Middlesex League’s top hockey programs, the gold medal squad had a distinct Red Devil and Wildcat tinge. Burlington’s Mike Bibbey, Derek DeCastro and Shane Morgan were joined by Wilmington’s Anthony and Joe Castellano, Cam Collins, Cam Owens and Jake Rogers.
All were champions with their high school teams, Burlington in Division 1 and Wilmington in Division 2, respectively. All claimed gold in their Bay State Games’ experience.
“It’s a good time, good friends and good hockey,” said Owens, who scored a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in the Wildcats’ triumph over Franklin at the TD Garden in March. “This has been a great experience.”
Owens played alongside Wildcats linemate Jake Rogers, forming a fearsome scoring duo for the Northeast team. One that DeCastro, who backstopped the Red Devils to their state title, was happy to watch operate in the opposing zone.
“Usually, I’m seeing those guys takes shots on me,” the Burlington rising senior said. “At least this time, I don’t have to worry about stopping their shots.”
DeCastro split the Northeast’s netminding duties with Reading standout Evan Morelli, creating depth in goal and presenting Conceison with a good problem to have.
“I think we had nine goaltenders come out for tryouts,” said Conceison, who was in his third year of Bay State Games coaching experience, his first as a head coach. “It was a tough competition; it was tough making those cuts because it shows you how much talent there is in the area.”
While in the midst of a summer heat wave, local rinks remain busy with a host of offseason tournaments filling up the schedule in the coming weeks.
Both DeCastro and Owens have taken part in other summertime tournaments during their high school careers, but chose to play in the Bay State Games for the first time this year. Both cited the ability to play with a group of their high school teammates as an enticing possibility.
“A lot of tournaments that you play in, you’re playing with people from all over the place,” Owens said. “Here, I get to play with all of my teammates, you’re playing for your region and that’s kind of cool.
“Even the guys from other teams, you know a lot of them from playing against them during the [high school] season. Now, you get to play with them and get to know them.”