When local high school hockey drops the puck in a few weeks, Salem High’s Paul Antkowiak and Garnett Antkowiak, Timberlane’s Nick Lambert, Haverhill High’s Tom Maguire and Pentucket’s Tom Pingree will go back to being rivals, either on the ice or simply every week when they see the area scoring stats.
But when April arrives, those five and numerous others from around the area will become teammates once again, with a national title as the goal.
Last weekend, the New Hampshire East Eagles won a berth in April’s U18 national tournament after surging to the Granite State League title this spring.
“The kids are thrilled,” said coach Brian Toohey. “Every year it seems like we were right there, then something would happen in the end. This year everything came together and we will get to play for the crown.”
Filled with local players, the Eagles finished 25-0-2 overall this season, 15-0-2 in the Granite State League with 126 goals for and 19 against in league play. The season began in September, and playoffs ended last week.
The roster is composed of players from throughout the region, including Timberlane, Salem, Pentucket, Haverhill, Amesbury/Whittier and Central Catholic, along with former area players including Cam Toohey (Timberlane) who now plays for Berwick Academy.
“The core of this group has been playing together for 5 or 6 years and are very close,” said Brian Toohey, Cam’s dad. “When it’s high school season, they will battle each other on the ice or are always texting each other when the stats come out about who is ahead. But they are always pulling for each other. It’s pretty funny. But when they get here, they become a true team.”
The Eagles’ season is now on hold, for the high school season. But it will resume with the national tournament in Hartford, Conn., in April.