After an offseason of hard work, it’s time for the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ hockey team to hit the ice.
The Panthers, despite skating to a 1-16-3 mark last winter, showed a great deal of promise. That promise was on display during a four-game stretch that began in late January and featured 2-2 draws with Silver Lake and Plymouth North (Div. 2 South Sectional tournament qualifier) and a 1-1 stalemate with Quincy (Div. 2 South Sectional tournament qualifier). Also, mixed in there was a 2-0 nail-biting setback to Duxbury, which cracked the Div. 1 South Sectional tournament. A few returning Panthers boasted key performances in that run.
During that span, Korey Howard had three tallies – two of which came in the Lakers tie –, Luke McVeigh and Alex Uva had a goal apiece and backup goaltender Ricky Welch was key in net during the 2-2 draw against the Blue Eagles.
Welch is one player head coach Chris Googins said he is looking at to rise to the occasion this season as he takes over for 2016-17 captain and team MVP, David Perry, in between the pipes.
“Dave Perry is going to be the toughest to replace and I definitely think returner Rick Welch is up for the challenge to step up and repeat the strong performance of David,” Googins, who is in his second season back at the helm of the Panthers after serving as their head coach from 1997-2003, said.
Welch is going to have a strong nucleus around him – spearheaded by senior captain and defenseman Ryan Sawtelle and assistant captains Howard and Uva.
“All three of them are dedicated to the game, program and are great role models for the younger kids,” Googins said.
Googins went on to add that he feels a majority of his team did what they had to over the past 10 months to get ready for the new season.
“A good portion of the players committed themselves to getting better in the offseason and we’re hoping that this transfers into wins,” Googins said. “Ed Scriven, Owen Manning, Adam Solari, Chris Stoddard and Luke McVeigh will be relied on to help propel the Panthers.”
W-H will be back on the ice Saturday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. at the Bog Ice Arena in Kingston against Patriot League Keenan Division foe Duxbury.
“Right from the first tryout we have tried to up the standards from the most basic drill to a difficult concept,” Googins said. “We need total focus for the entire time you’re on the ice.”