Cardigan Mountain School A boarding and day school for boys in grades 6 through 9

Cardigan Hockey: The “Back-Check”

Cardigan's Varsity Hockey Team

By Cameron McCusker ’10, Sixth Grade Teacher and Varsity Hockey Coach

Cardigan’s Varsity Hockey Team’s 2019-2020 campaign was not without its ups and downs. What on paper might seem to be a “middle of the road” season, was in truth and reality anything but. The numbers that some might use to define the season fail to do justice to the massive growth and learning that took place for many Cardigan players.

During a strong start, the Cougars won their first two games in exciting fashion, setting a positive tone for the end of the 2019 calendar year. 

Before the team split for their winter holiday break, they enjoyed a trip to Boston to compete in the Belmont Hill Tournament as they do each year.  But before the start of the tournament, a bit of holiday cheer was extended to the Cardigan team, as the group enjoyed an evening together at TD Garden taking in a Bruins game (with some help from Cardigan alumnus John Whitesides ’88). While neither the Bruins nor the Cougars were able to come away from their respective contests with victories, the experience was one that brought their tight-knit groups even closer together just before their mid-season hiatus.

The team at a Bruins game

Our Varsity Hockey Team enjoyed a Boston Bruins game before a weekend hockey tournament. Read more

The group’s return to campus coincided with a difficult stretch of away games—a stretch that brought about both excellent victories and tough-to-swallow losses. Through the bulk of the away stretch, however, the team gelled off the ice and became closer with each passing day. The team also grew by one in January, and Danny Valenti’s ’21 arrival to the squad reinvigorated the group’s energy, competitive spirit, and passion for the game. All of these qualities were on display during a memorable victory against Bishop’s College in Quebec, a game that showcased the team’s skill and resilience (“reskillience” ™), and was a microcosm of the season as a whole.

As Cardigan’s boys pushed past the most grueling portion of their short season with relative success, they entered the “home” stretch—a term ever more fitting when considering how many of the Cougars’ final games occurred  at Turner Arena. While the comforts of home didn’t confront the boys with as many difficulties and struggles as their time on the road, they were challenged in different ways during the season’s final leg. Injuries and sickness carved into what was once a healthy Cougar lineup, and left the team shorthanded (and without one of their captains) for a significant portion of their season’s final days. 

Varsity Hockey vs. Tilton School

Cardigan's Varsity Hockey Team vs. Tilton School in December 2019. See more photos

Despite the difficulties with which the season concluded, it would be an injustice not to mention the growth that took place throughout the hockey season. The handful of ninth-graders on the roster were relied upon to provide some much-needed leadership and guidance. In addition, the relative inexperience of the group provided opportunities for many younger players to lead by example and to gain some useful exposure to situations with which they might be confronted in years/seasons to come. 

Each member of Cardigan’s Varsity Hockey Team ended the season with strong skill development and with equally important character development. The team’s ninth-graders also leave the program having gained important leadership experience and having made great strides (pun intended, thanks) in terms of their on-ice play before they head to their next destinations. Additionally, much of the team’s core remains intact and will return to next year’s season both eager and hungry to build on the foundation that this season provided. 

Regardless of next stops and steps for those who had a hand in the 2019-2020 season, the lingering feeling remains the same for all—one that combines the satisfaction of a job well done, with the hunger and drive of knowing the work has just begun.

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