Athletic hockey squad aims to finish business in 2014-15

THE MELROSE Red Raider boy's hockey team returns to the ice looking to make a run again in playoffs during their 2014-15 campaign. (File photo) 

THE MELROSE Red Raider boy’s hockey team returns to the ice looking to make a run again in playoffs during their 2014-15 campaign. (File photo)


MELROSE — If Melrose sports fans liked what they saw on the football field this season, then they are going to love the 2014-15 Melrose Red Raider hockey team.

Melrose returns looking to pick up where they left off last season when they compiled a 12-4-5 record and advanced to Div. 1 North quarterfinals during playoffs. The team’s home opener is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. against Winthrop at Kasabuski Arena in Saugus, their new home base. But in the meantime, fans can see them at Ed Burns Arena in Arlington this Saturday night in an 8 p.m. game.

What should fans expect this season? Tough, physical hockey, for starters.

The Red Raiders actually lost 12 seniors last season but return with some of their leading scorers and their goalie, Tyler Brown. Their senior captains, meanwhile, are coming off a once-in-three decades Super Bowl appearance for the Melrose High football team and most earned All Star honors in their duties. That’s a game-changer for this team.

Among those who will lead the charge are quad-captains Jake Karelas, Jack Hickey, Zack Mercer and Brian McLaughlin, along with Alex Byrne and Zac Phipps on defense. Add senior Ryan Feeney (another football lineman) and you may very well have the brawniest, unrelenting and most aggressive team in the Middlesex League.

“This is our third year with these players, we’re so fortunate to have these seniors to serve as our anchors,” says third year coach Vin Mirasolo. “They were instrumental in the football team’s success and I believe that leadership will transfer.”

Mirasolo also sees promise in his goalie duo of Tyler Brown and Matt Bowers. “They’re going to be a great tandem this season … having both is a strength and Tyler had a great season last year.”

Mirasolo, for his own part, can take credit for turning the program around, after bringing Melrose to playoffs two straight years, including a Div. 1 North semifinal appearance in 2012. Last season the Red Raiders missed clinching the Middlesex Freedom League by just one point to Watertown and during playoffs were bounced by eventual State Champ Reading, who once again looks like the Liberty Division favorite with many returning players.

There may be a sense of finishing business for the tough group of tri-athletes who, collectively, have logged dozens of playoff hours for MHS in various sports. That chemistry is one of the reasons Melrose is expected to be tough to beat this year. Their seniors are used to winning high stakes games.

For Melrose, count on Brian McLaughlin, Jack Hickey and Zack Mercer to provide a triple threat on offense. Jake Karelas, meanwhile, will be a menace on blue line. There are a number of new players on the roster, including underclass linemen now expected to keep up in one of the most competitive leagues in the state. While it’s reasonable to expect Melrose to vie for a league title or go deep in Div. 1 playoffs, it’s worth noting this Red Raider team is – right now – playing catch up. Because of that Super Bowl appearance, Melrose is behind a week in both practice and preparation as opposed to other teams.

“We’re going to be a much better team in two weeks time then we are now,” Mirasolo predicts.  “Our goal is to get better every day and compete for a title. They have lots to learn and I think they can do it. Our seniors will be instrumental, there is a great chemistry there.”  In the Middlesex Freedom League, expect Melrose to battle for a top spot with reigning league champ Watertown and an always-tough Burlington, who they’ll play twice this year.

Fans can travel Saturday night to see the Red Raiders take on Arlington at Ed Burns Arena. The Spy Ponders had an impressive 12-3-5 season last year and were the No. 2 seed in the D-1 North Tournament last year, who features league MVP Jack Kelly as forward. Puck drops at 8 p.m.