By Matt Taylor, Contributing Writer
Region – It's not every day that high school hockey players get the chance to play on the same ice as future NHL talent, but the Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) and Shrewsbury High School (SHS) hockey teams had that chance recently at the third annual High School Hockey Showdown at DCU Arena in Worcester.
Every player had the chance to be introduced over the public address system as they skated through the inflatable Worcester Shark's mouth to center ice. Every player was given the chance to salute the American flag waving on the Jumbotron above. It's a dream come true for many players, including SHS freshman starting goaltender Chris Shelby; he was excited, but not overwhelmed, by the surroundings.
“It was a lot harder than I expected,” Shelby said. “The intensity was higher and the action was faster. The key is to stay calm and within yourself, and just play your game.”
Shelby, like many players, hopes to play on this stage someday, but for now he'sl continue to improve his game and play at the junior level after high school.
There is a lot to take in when watching a game at a 15,000-seat arena. The music over the high-tech sound system, the goal horn and the on-ice interviews are just a few of things that entertain fans and motivate players. But both teams had things to accomplish and game plans to execute. Algonquin's goal was to score a goal; the Tomahawks had skated to a 0-0 tie with Auburn High School in their previous game. They were also looking for their first win, as they entered the game at 0-3-3. Shrewsbury was looking to rebound from a slow start, as they entered the contest at 2-4.
ARHS accomplished the initial goal almost immediately, putting pressure on the SHS defense, and at the 10:27 mark of the first period, Algonquin senior Dan Sheehy gave the Tomahawks a 1-0 lead on a quick wrist shot off of a Shrewsbury turnover. After the Tomahawks lit the lamp, listened to the goal horn and celebrated to Gary Glitter's “Rock and Roll Part 2,” the Colonials settled down and scored two goals within one minute near the end of the period, to give Shrewsbury a 2-1 lead. David Duva and Matt Bodley scored the goals for SHS. Sheehy was interviewed on center ice at the end of the first, as his goal broke a long scoreless streak for Algonquin.
Strong defense, goaltending and physical play continued in the second period for both teams, but SHS's Mike Centerbar scored the all-important third goal off a sensational pass from captain Bryan Parsons and gave the Colonials a 3-1 lead.
SHS captain Matt Bodley also had a strong game and drew a tripping penalty on ARHS's Jack Mullin early in the third period. This penalty set up another goal by Centerbar, which put the Colonials up, 4-1. Mullin scored ARHS's final goal with less than two minutes left, to the make the score 4-2 in favor of SHS. Bodley added an empty-net goal for Shrewsbury to make the final tally 5-2. Centerbar was interviewed after the game as the MVP, with two goals and two assists.
ARHS assistant coach Schyler Moore talked about his team's effort and the experience of playing in a professional arena.
“It was a great thrill for these kids,” he said, “and we are grateful to the Worcester Sharks for giving us this opportunity. Shrewsbury played a tough, aggressive game that kept us on our heels. We'se working to play at that level on a consistent basis.”