METHUEN — It’s simply impossible to question Ryan Tierney’s dedication.
For more than two years of his high school career, Tierney awoke every morning at 5:15 a.m., and by 6 a.m. was out the door and on the road with one of his parents or grandparents, who drove him from his Methuen home to LaCascia’s Bakery in Burlington.
From there, Tierney would catch a bus that would take him to Arlington Catholic High School.
But for Tierney — who still rises at 5:15 but can now drive the hour-long trip himself — it is well worth it.
“It took some adjusting,” he said with a laugh. “And it can still be tough. It’s unique, but the more I did it the easier it got. I don’t dread waking up and going to school. I love Arlington Catholic.”
Tierney’s dedication and ability to stave off sleep deprivation, have paid off not just for the Arlington Catholic junior, but for the entire hockey team.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound winger has scored seven goals, one off the team high, and his 20 points (7-13—20) are two off the team-best to lead Arlington Catholic to a 10-3-1 record. AC is No. 5 in Eastern Mass. and No. 6 in the state-wide Super 8 rankings, as the Cougars eye their first trip to the elite tourney since the 2005-06 season.
“Ryan is a big, strong left wing who we depend on a great deal,” said Arlington Catholic coach Dan Shine. “He is a guy that we consider a go-to guy. He plays on power plays, he kills penalties and he has really progressed into a very good player.”
But there was a time, quite a few years ago, when Tierney had no interest in being on the ice.
“I started learning to skate when I was about 5-years-old and I hated it,” he said. “From what my parents told me I would just hang on the boards and was really intimidated. It was really tough for my parents to convince me to get out there. But now I am grateful they did. I started to like it, and once I started playing hockey I just fell in love.”
After spending his early years in Billerica, Tierney and his family moved to their current home in Methuen when Ryan was 7-years-old. That’s when his mother was pregnant with his triplet siblings (two sisters and a brother).
Tierney, applied to schools such as Central Catholic and Malden Catholic before settling on Arlington Catholic, where several of his travel team teammates ended up.
“It was a big decision and I spent a lot of time talking it out with my parents,” he said. “My parents were very supportive and I knew I wanted to go to Arlington Catholic. And I don’t regret the decision a bit.”
Tierney spent much of his freshman season playing on the JV team, earning just a single shift on the varsity team.
But the forward broke out last season. He finished with nine goals, good for fourth on the team, and 14 points, including his first career hat trick in a victory over Bishop Guertin.
“Everything really started for me last year,” he said. “Myself and my linemates (Ryan Spagnoli and Jason Smith) started as the second line, but we began to prove ourselves and started seeing more ice time.
“But this season we set our expectations even higher. I wanted to push myself and accomplish even more for my junior year.”
Tierney and the Cougars opened the 2013-14 season with a bang, going 7-0-1 in their first eight games, including a 4-2 victory over Central Catholic.
“That win against Central was probably the biggest win we have had all season,” he said. “They are in the Super 8 discussion every year and have made it almost every year. We knew they were a great team and to get a win against them was huge.”
Arlington Catholic added another big victory last Wednesday over Archbishop Williams, the 500th of Dan Shine’s career.
Tierney could have made himself the star of the game, but passed up his third goal of the day to instead set up teammate Ryan Spagnoli for his first career hat trick.
“We had discussed it on the bench that we were going to give the puck to Ryan,” he said. “We have played together for three years. I love the kid to death and he helped me out when I got my hat trick so I wanted to return the favor. And it was great to be part of coach Shine’s 500th win. I really admire him.”
With his seven goals, Tierney currently trails just Ryan Smith (8-14-22) in goals and points.
“(Tierney) has great puck handling skills and excellent size,” said Shine. “He has tremendous lateral movement. He moves side to side so well with the puck on his stick, and that is what makes him so difficult for players to defend.”
But Tierney has bigger goals in store, including playing on the Bruins’ ice at the TD Garden in Arlington Catholic’s first trip to the Super 8 in eight seasons.
“We have never made the Super 8 in my time here, and it is every hockey player’s dream to make the tournament against the top competition,” he said. “And once we found out the first round was going to be at the Garden, that was just a dream come true. I believe we can accomplish it if we give it out best shot.”
North Reading has continued to dominate this season, standing at 11-1-1 overall. And no one has been more important than goalie Keith Linnane.
Linnane’s flashy 1.20 goals-against average ranks in a tie for fourth in the state, and one of the players ahead of him has played just seven games. In 12 games Linnane has allowed just 14 goals and has recorded three shutouts.
The netminder and crew will be out for revenge this weekend, as North Reading will host Pentucket-Georgetown (5-9-0), who shocked the Hornets for their only loss of the season 3-0 on Jan. 11.
Tuesday’s snowstorm ruined the most hotly-contested local hockey matchup this winter, postponing Wednesday’s meeting of the two top teams in New Hampshire Division 1, with No. 1 Salem hosting No. 2 Londonderry.
No word yet on when the two teams will be rescheduling their game.
Super 8 bound?
The first comprehensive Super 8 standings were released this week. Central Catholic seems to have an automatic big within reach, currently with an RPI ranking of fourth overall. Malden Catholic, with North Andover winger Tyler Sifferlen, is second. Haverhill goalie Elijah Harris and North Reading forward Bobo Carpenter have led Austin Prep to a No. 3 ranking.
The Super Eight selection meeting is on Feb. 22.
Nick of time
After having scored just five goals in an 0-3-2 stretch, Methuen was in dire need of a boost.
Senior co-captain Nick Yameen has swiftly put an end to that streak, scoring four goals in his last two games, including his first career hat trick in a 4-1 win over North Andover. The Rangers followed that with a 3-3 tie against Concord-Carlisle.
Blast from the past
A familiar face was spotted around the rink this week, former Andover High coach Mario Martiniello.
He said he is enjoying his current role as the head coach and GM of the ECHL’s Boston Junior Rangers, who play out of Tewksbury. He was 81-48-19 including a trip to the Division 2 state title game as head coach for the Golden Warriors before his controversial dismissal late in his seventh season.
1. Salem 13-1-1
2. Central Catholic 10-3-2
3. Londonderry 12-3-0
4. North Reading 11-1-1
5. Windham-Pelham 9-3-0
Honorable Mention: Brooks (13-7-1), Amsbury-Whittier (8-4-2)