‘Gritty’ trio from Dot powers Archbishop Williams skaters

Dorchester’s Finn Kelly at work in a game against Catholic Memorial last month.
Photos courtesy of AWHS Sports Department

Dorchester’s Finn Kelly has set the pace for the AWHS Bishops boys hockey team this year. Photo courtesy of AWHS Sports Department

Dorchester hockey standout Finn Kelly might have had a “leapfrog” season last year for the Archbishop Williams High School (AWHS) boys’ team, but this year it has been a quantum leap as the junior forward has already logged more than 40 points heading into the state tournament – and he’s done it with two close friends from the neighborhood.

Kelly scored the game-winning goal in double overtime last Wednesday as Williams defeated Reading in the season-ending Buddy Ferreira Hockey Classic on Cape Cod. The Neponset native collected MVP honors – with 27 goals and 17 assists for 44 points on the season, a tally that included a five-goal effort in a game against Falmouth on Feb. 17.

While the spotlight has been on Kelly this season, he forms one piece of a Dot-based triple threat for highly ranked AWHS (16-4-1), with center Pat Hampton and Casey Kelley, who, Finn Kelly said, he has skated with since “around the age of seven.”

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The Dot skaters will join their teammates on the ice this week as the Division 1 State Tournament opens with the fifth-seeded AWHS slated to play Weymouth on Wednesday night (Feb. 28). If they win, they could face a rematch with Franklin High School – whom they played earlier this month to an unexpected loss. Now, the ‘Archie Bills’ boys are ready for a memorable run.

“Coming back this year with the same teammates, especially Casey and Pat, helped out a huge amount this season,” said Kelly. “We had 17 returning. At first, we tried to find a goalie, which we needed, and one came in – Sean Velozo. The team made a huge jump with him, and he put a lot of weight on himself and has played so well. We know what it takes to go all the way so that is exactly what we are focused on now. It’s win or go home, and you put yourself on the line in the playoffs. Also, any team can beat anyone. You can’t take any team for granted in the tournament.”

Coach Chris Cunningham said Kelly has emerged in his sophomore and junior seasons as a go-to player. “Anytime we need a big goal, Finn seems to be there,” he told the Reporter. “Last year he had a breakout season – 20 goals and a total of 28 points. This year he’s already over 40 points…I think having the first line that he plays on, with Casey Kelley and Ben Sylvester, is something you can always rely on. In the biggest moments, they come up big…Having that in your back pocket is great; you know at any moment they can strike when you need it.”

Kelly, 17, grew up on Rockne Avenue off Gallivan Boulevard – the sixth of eight children (six girls, two boys) to parents Pat and Claire Kelly. He said he always loved going to Devine Rink and cannot remember a time not being in a Dorchester Youth Hockey (DYH) uniform.

“I was just always with Dorchester Youth Hockey, since I was very little doing the Learn to Skate,” he said. “Every single one of the teams and seasons were special. I skated there with my current teammate Casey Kelley, and we’ve been on the same line together since we're seven years old.”

Jeff Hampton (Pat Hampton’s father) coached Kelly through his younger years, and Shaun and Peter O’Sullivan were his coaches during his years in the Bantam divisions. But moving up to high school hockey from youth hockey “was a big jump.”

“I started out at Archie’s on varsity my freshman year, but I started slow and ended up having a leapfrog year last year,” he said. “I knew I could be a lot better and a top player on the team so I worked hard that off-season…I think what I have grown in as a player is that I always wanted to go out and score as many points as I could when I was younger but as you get older you have to do things like play well in the D- Zone.”

With that improvement has come highlights such as the double-overtime goal last week to win the Ferreira Tournament. Kelly said Reading took a change that was a bit awkward, and he saw an opening as Kelley urged him on. “I shot up left…I knew it was good when I shot it,” he said.

Kelly’s emergence as a team leader has been aided by his two Dot mates. “A lot of Dorchester kids have started showing up here,” said Cunningham. “I love the city kids. They’re ready to work hard and play with a little more grit. You love to see that.”

He noted that Hampton has come into his own this year, using speed to impact the team’s second line. “He has really increased his point total this year and become more of an impact player on that second line and he uses his speed a lot. He really is able to counterbalance that top group,” added Cunningham.

Going into the tournament, Cunningham said the Dorchester triple threat and the rest of the team had “woken up” after the loss to Franklin earlier this month. He added they’ve been more focused in practice and have battled against adversity in the final games of the season – something every coach loves to see headed into the playoffs.

Were they to win this Wednesday against Weymouth, the Archies will play Franklin or St. Mary’s of Lynn on Saturday.

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