Rogers/Middletown/Tiverton head coach Johnny Sheil grew up going to Providence College basketball games with his family. Sheil has been to the arena where his team locked up its first state championship on Saturday more times than he could count, making the day even more special.
“Playing at PC, it’s a dream, especially for me. I’m a big time Friars fan. I’ve had season tickets to their basketball team since I was a kid, so that was just a dream come true. Being there and winning it at that rink, it’s the best one in the state in my opinion,” he said on Sunday.
Shane Temple put Portsmouth up 1-0 after one, but Matt O’Hagan’s goal in the second made it a 1-1 game heading to the third. That’s when two of the state’s best players showed up at the most critical time.
Senior captain Keaton O’Shea and linemate Johnny Lopes – who had an empty net goal to seal the historic title – have led on and off the ice all season long and did so again. On the ice, O’Shea had the eventual game-winning goal. Off the ice, he gave a passionate speech that his teammates and his coaches won’t forget.
“He’s our leading goal scorer and I think he was second in the state in points behind his linemate Johnny Lopes by a point, and he gave a pregame speech on his own,” said Sheil. “Basically, he just said this is more than hockey to us and we’re going to go out and win this. He pretty much just sent chills out to the entire team and I’ll never forget that. That was one of those moments you just sit back as a coach and smile ear-to-ear because of this kid. He’s wise beyond his years.”
There was also another gritty performance that will live on in the co-op’s history, no matter how much it changes though the years.
“That moment and Dylan Marvelle playing with a broken finger and sacrificing his body, he was laying hits, putting pucks on net, doing everything he could, it was inspiring. I’ll never forget those moments,” Sheil added.
Winning a title is hard. Winning a title as a co-op is even harder. Winning a title as a co-op with three different schools is nearly impossible. Not because the kids aren’t talented, but being able to gel to a point where you can compete with the best in the state while going to several different schools makes an already difficult game that much harder.
“I think that’s what makes it so special,” Sheil said. “They all got along, they all gelled together, they made it a point to hang out together, to do team activities together and when you get that, sometimes it’s all you need. Everybody knows they’re going to fight for one another and they showed that. It was incredible.”
Sheil saw something early in his team, but he didn’t know just how far they could go until one particular day halfway through the season.
“You can see they’re gelling, but we didn’t really hit that point until the middle of the season. We did a group activity. We had a sports physiologist come in and just had about an hour and a half talk, that’s all it really was. and we didn’t lose a game since,” he explained. “They went on a tear and you could just tell they all trusted each other. They turned it on and just started playing for one another.”
Not only did R/M/T make history, but they’ve established a culture of winning that may influence the younger generations to want to be a part of what’s being built.
“It’s monster for our program,” said Sheil. “There were so many little kids that followed this team all year long. Now, winning it and they get to experience it with us, it’s huge. We’re a co-op so we don’t have numbers. Tiverton I don’t think won a game two years prior and we took them on this year. I bet you now there’s going to be some young Tiverton kids who say ‘hey, I think I want to go play,’ and that’s big for us and the development of this program,.
“We want to be a good, solid program that can compete every year in a public school type of environment. I think this is huge for that.”