At the team banquet last year, Pilgrim hockey coach Dave Tober told the crowd that Nick McGuirl had reached 100 career points. With another strong season, Tober said, McGuirl would have a shot to become the school’s all-time points leader.
For a while, it looked like McGuirl would have that strong season somewhere else. He had offers to play prep school hockey and started the 2011-12 school year at Worcester Academy.
But he missed Pilgrim.
“I wanted to finish out my senior year at Pilgrim,” McGuirl said. “I missed Pilgrim hockey.”
McGuirl came back, and the rest is literally history.
With three goals and four assists Friday night against Ponaganset, McGuirl set a new school record for career points, surpassing the old mark of 133. McGuirl hit 134 when he assisted on a Cody Weaver goal in the third period. He added a goal and an assist for good measure, bringing his total to 136.
“As soon as I came back, I knew I wanted to break the record,” McGuirl said. “I just wanted to get it as soon as possible so I tried to kick it into gear the last couple of games.”
Last year’s banquet was the first McGuirl had heard of the record. Tober wasn’t sure exactly what the mark was so he did some research. The record books are fuzzy before the 1980’s, and it’s not clear who held the record, but everyone feels confident in the number.
“I had a feeling he was on the verge,” Tober said. “In my time in Warwick high-school hockey, I never remember Pilgrim having a player that prolific. We heard some rumblings and investigated it and the consensus is that the record was 133.”
McGuirl has been Pilgrim’s leading scorer since his freshman year, and he totaled 38 points last year. With 100 at the start of the year and 20 games on the schedule, McGuirl knew he was well within striking distance.
Early in the season, he was right on pace, averaging about two points per game. In the last few weeks, though, his pace increased dramatically. On Dec. 30, he tallied six points against Ponaganset and had five assists the next week against North Smithfield.
After getting just an assist in Pilgrim’s next game, McGuirl caught fire again, netting a hat trick against Toll Gate. That brought him to 123, and the 11 he needed for the record would come quickly.
Last Monday against PCD/Wheeler/St. Ray’s, McGuirl notched another hat trick and added three assists as Pilgrim rolled to the 7-0 win.
Then came Friday. Back on the home ice at Thayer Arena, McGuirl needed five points to get the record, and everybody knew it.
“Everyone was talking about it in the locker room,” McGuirl said. “I just tried to put it aside. I didn’t want to worry about it.”
McGuirl started down the right path with an assist on a Weaver goal in the first period. In the second period, he lit the lamp twice himself then assisted on a goal early in the third to tie the record. He then assisted Weaver again to hit 134.
“I would have liked to do it on a goal, but an assist to Cody was just as good,” McGuirl said. “We’ve been playing together since we were in mites so getting it to Cody meant a lot.”
McGuirl and his teammates celebrated the goal and the record, and Tober got the puck from the referees.
“Obviously, it’s a great accomplishment,” Tober said. “He’s a special offensive talent, and he’s had the opportunity to play with a lot of really good players – Cody Weaver, Evan Joyal last year. His freshman year, he played with Kyle Maxfield. So he’s had a lot of good point-getters around him.”
That’s true again this year, with Weaver and Ryan Oatley joining McGuirl on the top line. Together, those three can be a dynamic force, just as they’ve shown in the recent surge. McGuirl now leads the state in points while Weaver ranks third.
McGuirl has been the beneficiary in terms of the record, but his team has also caught fire, with three wins in its last four games.
“That line can be dominant when they use each other and when it’s not three individuals,” Tober said. “These last four or five games, they’ve utilized each other a lot, and the result is a bunch of points. And we need that. The record wasn’t something we were focused on from a team standpoint, but when Nick and that line are going, it helps us win, and that’s the ultimate goal.”
McGuirl echoed those thoughts. The record is nice, but going out with a championship would be really be a finish worth coming back for.
“It’s always been about the team, and now that’s the only focus,” McGuirl said. “It’s great to get the record but we want to win a state championship.”