Everyone loves to root for an underdog: it’s the singular thread that runs across all geographies, all skill levels and all sports. Take the Bishop Fenwick men’s ice hockey team. Coach Jim Quinlan, who spent years at the helm of his alma mater Saugus HS took on the job and the arduous task of building the newly christened D1 hockey program at Bishop Fenwick into a winner. Four years later and he has a group of seniors that he has been able to build a stable foundation on, who are poised to make even more noise than they made last season in the D1 North playoffs.
What follows is our interview with Coach Quinlan, who tells the full story of his time at Bishop Fenwick…
MassNZ: Last season Bishop Fenwick made some noise in the state tournament by defeating Reading in the first round of the D1 North playoffs. Take us back to that victory and how your team was able to secure the victory.
Coach Jim Quinlan: Well you have to remember that we won seven in a row just to get into the D1 North playoffs. We couldn’t afford to lose any more games halfway through the season and my captains (seniors) and the juniors all put it together. They believed in me and they did what I told them to do, plus our goalie was phenomenal. We played Reading first: we just barely got in, we were near the bottom of the list, the 20th team. I watched them before we played and we had a game plan going in. We played great defense and blocked a lot of shots. The team played at 120%: they didn’t want to lose. It was hard-nosed hockey and they never gave up. We scored one goal plus an empty netter and Jake Moniz played phenomenal in net. The atmosphere got better and better as the game went on.
This year is my fourth year at Bishop Fenwick, I coached under Chris Serino at Malden Catholic then coached at Saugus. For years, Bishop Fenwick was a doormat in their conference as a D2 and even as a D1: just a doormat. My first year, teams would crush us. Each year we got better and better: we went 5-5 last year in conference, it’s the best they’ve ever done with four seniors. We made the state tournament, the second time ever. They had never won a game in the tournament so that was huge for our program and for the school to beat Reading. We played against Winchester next and it was a great atmosphere. It reminded me of my days coaching in Saugus when they would pack the place, the players wanted to show that Bishop Fenwick is up and coming.
NZ: Last season you saw your seniors play a big role in your success (Ethan Belt, Derek DelVecchio, Trey Deloury, Jake Moniz) can you describe what each of those players brought to the program?
Quinlan: Ethan was one of our MVPs, he’s not the biggest scorer but he made plays out there in the defensive and offensive zone that were unbelievable. As a right wing he blocked shots from the point: he had five blocks against Reading. That’s more than goal scoring, he was sacrificing himself. Trey did the same thing. 75% of the game he was on the ice, he wouldn’t come off. His best game was against Reading. Plus Moniz stood on his head, he wanted to win. I coached Derek DelVecchio back in junior high, I knew he would be tough-nosed and he put his chin down and went to work when he played for Bishop Fenwick. All of the players worked their butts off to put our name on the map. They gave it all they had. After we lost the Winchester game 3-2 I told them: “You gave it all you have and I can’t ask for any more than that.” Over the summer the seniors have kept in touch, they call me, it’s a great thing that they are doing well I’m happy for them.
NZ: What growth have you seen in the program from the time that you took over in 2016?
Quinlan: Back in 2016-17 we had 27 kids in the whole program. Keep in mind that a school like Austin Prep has 100 kids in their program, St. Mary’s Lynn has 75. They have so many kids to pick from. My third line and fourth line had to play junior varsity. We’d play our JV games with eight kids, we just barely had enough to play. Now we have over 50 players, including transfers coming in Malden Catholic, Pentucket and Gloucester. This year we will have nine seniors: they came in my first year as a freshman and they stuck beside me all the way.
I’m a very disciplined coach who is tough to play for, the players all know it and they stuck with me. They want to show that this last season wasn’t a fluke. We were up on Winchester 2-0 with nine minutes left to go in that game. All it took was a couple of inexperienced mistakes from our sophomores and freshmen. It took two OTs to decide it. We scored and they called it back, so we went to a shootout which we lost 2-1 and Winchester went all the way to the finals. I remember talking to one of the Winchester parents who told me: “Out of all those games we played, Bishop Fenwick was the toughest team we had to play.” That made me feel good. I’ve had other coaches tell me: “I can’t believe how you play: you never give up and you’re tough.”
We have two goalies who keep telling me: “I want this coach”. They want to play and are working so hard in the offseason and that’s what I like to see: the compete. They all want to be good- they want to be the best. We have a great bunch of players here, they are very respectful, they listen, they do what I tell them to do and believe in the staff.
NZ: Next, let’s talk about the depth of scoring that you had last season from incoming seniors like Ian Worthley, Nick Muzi and Jake Murphy. Those players will likely be your leaders this season I assume? What they add to the mix last year and what do you expect from them this season?
Quinlan: Nick, Jake and Ian, they were all young when I came in and I threw them right into the fire. Jake was playing first line minutes with his brother. Nick Muzi, he’s a sniper: a little lefty who is tough as nails. Last year when we were playing Arlington Catholic he took an elbow up high and split his eye open, but he wouldn’t come out. We stitched him up and amazingly he played the rest of the game.
They are all seniors and leaders now and they know that they have to score and do their job while playing good defense. The second and third lines know their roles; everybody has a role on my team. You have to give it 120% – whatever your role is. Even if it’s to give the other guys rest, whatever it is.
NZ: Ian Worthley was really impressive for us at the Mass HS Showcase and he looks ready to make a big jump this season, what would you say are his best attributes?
Quinlan: I go way back with him, all the way back to Saugus middle school. When he was in 5th grade he was playing up with his brother who was in 7th grade. He could play back then too. I loved coaching him, he just wanted to learn and he was already knowledgeable about hockey. After his freshman year at Saugus HS, I was so lucky that he transferred to Bishop Fenwick. He doesn’t just play one way he goes two ways; he backchecks and forechecks, he shoots and scores, he even played on the blue line for me. I knew I could trust him: he just wants it. He wants to play college hockey, and he wants the best for Bishop Fenwick. Knowing the way he is, he’s going to get there. He’s getting bigger at 6’2 and hasn’t even filled out yet. He’s going to be a player. He prioritizes hockey at 120% – shoots pucks everyday, works out everyday: when you have his kind of work ethic? You’re going to succeed.
NZ: You will be adding some new pieces this year, we saw Cam Martin at the Mass HS Showcase and thought he played very well – who else should fans expect to contribute next season?
Quinlan: He will be on our second line to start. We will have Ian and Cam on two lines: with them we know we can score goals. Muzi can fire it but Martin can shoot it quick. He fits right into our program, he hurt his ankle a little this summer but he’s back to 100% and skating all the time. He fit right in with our players this summer and he will be a big part of our team this season.
It’s nice to have him because we already play tough D but now we can score goals.
NZ: What is the state of your forward group, D core and goaltending? What are some of the competitions that will be sorted out during the season?
Quinlan: On defense, everybody has logged minutes but we are still learning. We have a new goalie who’s pretty good too but if we can put the puck in the net we will make a mark this year. We want to prove something to people and these kids want it too. They got a little taste last year and now they want more.
NZ: What will be the biggest challenges you expect to face this season?
Quinlan: Our special teams will be a challenge. The power play is something we need to work on a lot. On defense we have four sophomores back there, only one of them played full-time. We have some experience there with Aidan Anthony, a Malden Catholic transfer who will fit right in. We have work to do in our own zone and once I get on the ice with the players it’s different. Offensively, we are there. We have three lines that have all played and we are adding a Governors Academy transfer in forward Liam Hill who should be on our third line as a junior. We also have two new forwards that will make a mark, they just have to learn how I coach. I’m a different kind of coach: old school.
NZ: What are your goals for your team this season?
Quinlan: We have three goals and it’s all we work for during the season.
- Make the Tournament
- Win the Conference
- Win the State Championship
Our schedule is so tough over 21 games this year and about 10.5 wins gets you into the playoffs. In our conference, you need to come to play every night. We have Lowell Catholic joining and Matignon is gone this year. The Catholic Memorial Tournament is coming up and the league games are tough too.
These kids are tightly knit on and off-ice, they do things together all the time as a program. It’s why I scheduled a trip for us going down to Connecticut to play Notre Dame HS, it’s a bonding trip for us. These kids play together as a group: I stress that team is everything. Each kid can help each other and they will be better together than as individuals. They played together as a team during the summer too; they do everything together.
I’ve changed the program, it took four years. Before, Bishop Fenwick would take anybody, it’s true. We had a lot of transition over the first two years. I have to thank Chris Serino from my time with him at Malden Catholic. I learned a lot from him about how to turn a program around; I coached all of his kids in Saugus too. I would say that I learned more from him as an assistant than anywhere else: my time with him made me a better coach. He was like a second father to me: I would run through a wall for him when I played for him. He was our teacher in high school and he helped me to graduate; he helped a lot of people get to college from different sports. I still talk to his kids too. Malden Catholic is now at a point where 150 kids were trying out because of the foundation that he built.