After missing out on the tournament by two points last season, the boys’ hockey team is healthy and ready to go.
After an injury-riddled second half of the season led to the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ hockey team missing out on the playoffs by two points last winter, everyone’s healthy, and the team is looking to show what it can do when it has a clean bill of health.
“It’s safe to say one of the goals is to qualify for the state tournament,” said ninth-year head coach Chris Googins, in the third season of his second stint with the club. “It hasn’t happened for a while and it would be pretty neat for the kids.”
Sophomore defenseman Kevin Willis, who sustained a torn ACL last season, is one of the key players back from injury for the Panthers. He, along with classmates Jack Allen and Josh Pike and junior Reed Watson, will see significant time on the blue line.
“I’d say the level of importance on defense is our strength,” Googins said. “It’s one of the first couple of things we discuss through the course of the year, whether on or off the ice, and they really bought into it the first couple of days it looks like they’ve been doing a good job just defending.”
Junior forward Chris Stoddard, who was tied for fifth on the team with nine points through 12 games last winter, was sidelined for the final three weeks. This season, he’ll be joined by classmates John Hagan and Eddie Collins on the second line.
“They’ve been in the program for three years,” Googins said. “There’s high expectations for that group.”
On the first line for the Panthers will be senior captain Ed Scriven, senior assistant captain Owen Manning and junior assistant captain Adam Solari. All are multi-sport captains and provide the team with substantial leadership.
“We have three really good captains this year,” Googins said. “They’re also good mentors.”
Scriven’s 11 goals were second on the team last season, and he’ll be relied upon heavily to make up for the production lost with the gradation of league all-stars Korey Howard and Alex Uva, who combined for 27 goals and 26 assists.
“Ed’s got a dynamic shot,” Googins said of Scriven, who also captained the golf team. “He’s got a very hard shot, and he’s put in a lot of time. He’s put in a lot of work in the offseason. He’s a very good and a very fluent skater with a dynamic shot, so that’s a good combination to have in high school hockey.”
Manning, who was also a golf captain, scored seven goals and dished out six assists last winter.
“Owen is a highly respected kid on and off the ice,” Googins said of Manning. “Owen brings a nice level of grittiness and he’s got a real good hockey IQ. He knows when to shoot and he knows when to pass. I consider him to be one of our top playmakers.”
Solari’s eight-goal, 11-assist campaign last winter shined a light on what he can bring to the table. But so did his election as an assistant captain.
“It speaks for himself as a junior to be elected a captain by his peers,” Googins said of Solari, who also captained the boys’ cross country team. “He’s very well respected by his peers. He’s got a really quick release, a real quick release, and he’s got a knack for the net, and I’m hoping that can carry over from last sea son.”
In net, it’s a three-player battle between junior R.J. Flynn, sophomore transfer from Archbishop Williams Bobby Siders and freshman Erik Dean to take over the reins from Ricky Welch.
“Competition is healthy, it really is,” Googins said. “It makes everyone better.”
The Panthers open the season Saturday, Dec. 8 at 3:10 p.m. at Hobomock Arenas against league opponent Pembroke.
“The kids are very receptive to learning, very knowledgeable of the game,” Googins said “They know the level of intensity that needs to be present at practice, and there’s minimal motivating at practice because it’s pretty up tempo. They know what the barometer is now.”