Roll the following number around in your mind: 33-0-0.
Thirty-three is the number of consecutive, regular-season victories posted by the Cumberland High boys’ hockey team. It includes an 18-0-0 slate the Clippers compiled last season while capturing the fifth Division II state championship in school history.
The other 15 are the number of victories Cumberland has recorded through February 25 in Division I-Eccleston (the second-highest level of competition in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League). That’s noteworthy because this is the first season ever that Cumberland has competed in a division higher than II.
“To go undefeated and ultimately win the state playoffs last season was magical and beyond my wildest dreams,” said Mark Andreozzi, who’s in his 11the season as Cumberland’s head coach. “To be where we are now, I don’t have the words to fathom it. I try not to look at what we’ve done. I never would have envisioned 18-0. To be 33-0 is magical.
“Like last year, we talk about one game at a time – be better today than you were yesterday and work hard every game and in practice. If we’re not, then there’s going to be a problem.”
Clippers’ Conundrum: Cumberland did face a “problem” of sorts after last season when the league’s realignment formula automatically bumped it up a division.
“Schools have an opportunity to say ‘No, I don’t want to be placed in a certain division,’” said Andreozzi, whose teams are a combined 44-3-0 overall the last two seasons. “We didn’t fight it. We felt it was a fair placement based on what we had coming back and the formula.
“I could have argued it. But we felt where we were placed was the best place for us.”
Given what the Clippers have accomplished so far this season, who’s to argue?
“Our concerns were being able to compete and how successful could we be in a higher division,” said Andreozzi. “Our goal going in was to be as competitive as we could day in and day out and make the playoffs.
“In order to do that we felt we needed to be competitive every game and play our best hockey every game because we knew how good the teams were that we were going to be playing.”
From a subjective standpoint, Andreozzi has a theory regarding why his recent teams have been so dominant.
“I think it’s the way the kids have a love for each other,” he said. “They really are a family. I think that goes a long way toward playing (well in) games. Coaches and players spend a lot of time together on and off the ice. I have my own family but the players are my second family.
“That’s from watching them interact even on the bus moreso than the practice part. We love going to the rink every day and we want the kids to love going there. That love helps them commit to the unknown. Even though you’re favored to do something you still have to earn it.”
Impenetrable defense: From an objective standpoint there’s little doubt that defense has been Cumberland’s strength.
In 19 overall games, Cumberland has allowed a mere 25 goals as compared with 66 it’s scored.
“We have about four returnees (on defense) plus two who didn’t play much last year rounding out the top six plus senior goaltender Leo Lake who’s played three years (Lake has an overall goals-against average of 1.08 plus a .944 save percentage),” said Andreozzi. “Our defense and goalie have been strong for us. We really try to teach a team defense that starts from our end out.
“If we take care of our end, that’s the most important aspect.”
Andreozzi credits assistant coach Jon Paquin for making Cumberland’s blue-liners so proficient and Jon’s brother, Scott (an unpaid volunteer), with tutoring the goalies.
“Jon gets them ready and keeps them in a good frame of mind,” said Andreozzi. “We’ve been strong defensively which could be a reason why we are where are. Leo’s been great in net for us so far. Scott works with goalies in practice and games, getting them sound in their techniques.”
Seniors Tom Malloy and Kyle McKenna lead Cumberland’s D and are more-than-ably supported by Bryan Colburn and Derek Bross.
Senior Greg Wellington is Cumberland’s leading scorer with 11-10-21 totals.
“We have close to three lines that we run depending on injuries and play,” said Andreozzi. “Our third line is comprised of freshmen and sophomores who haven’t played a lot.”
“Overall, it’s not one guy,” continued Andreozzi. “It’s not two guys. It’s not just one line. We have a group of guys that are committed to each other. Our goal isn’t to be undefeated. Our goal is to play better every day and qualify for the playoffs.”
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.