After the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ hockey team fell to Westwood, 5-1, in the first round of the Division 2 South Sectional tournament, head coach Chris Googins had a simple message for his team.
“I told them, ‘Don’t underestimate what we achieved as a team this year. It was a few years since we’ve been to the tournament. There were a lot of good things that were accomplished this year,’” said the eighth-year coach, in his third season of his second stint with W-H.
A few years is an understatement. It had been since 2013 when the Panthers last made the playoffs. After coming within two points last season, they made it by one point this time around with a 10-9-1 mark.
“The big difference is there was a little bit more depth this year,” Googins said. “There’s some kids that emerged. A lot more depth was the key to it and when we did have injures this year, there were kids that stepped up and filled the voids and we moved on.”
Some games the Panthers were even able to roll out a third line featuring sophomore Josh Pike and juniors Calvin Cooper and Reed Watson.
“It’s the first time in my three years [back] here I can actually say we played at times three lines,” Googins said. “They did a real nice job.”
The Panthers’ top line was where, of course, they received a bulk of their production. Junior Adam Solari paced the Panthers with 10 goals and 14 assists and classmate Chris Stoddard was close behind with 13 goals and 10 assists.
“Adam had a nice season offensively,” Googins said. “When given time and space, he’s pretty creative.
“Chris Stoddard had multiple games with multiple goals. It was to absolute no surprise he could do that. He’s a gritty little kid who has good hockey IQ. He’s a very deceptive player.”
Senior assistant captain and forward Owen Manning was also a playmaker up front, potting six goals and dishing out 14 assists. Along with being one of two Panthers league all-stars, he was selected a Shriners All-Star Classic participant.
Senior captain Ed Scriven (11 goals and 12 assists) started the season on the first line but converted to defense to fill a void. He was also named a league all-star. Behind Scriven, sophomore goalie Bob Siders, a transfer from Archbishop Williams, emerged as a rock. He held Duxbury, the eventual Division 1 state champion, to three goals over six periods of action and won consecutive do-or-die games down the stretch.
“He was given the opportunity to come in and earn the starting job — he did — and for the most part he was steady,” Googins said of Siders.
Googins said he can visualize Whitman-Hanson hockey becoming a contender in the not so distant future. It all starts in the spring.
“The kids are really buying into the importance of how much you have to work in the offseason and getting out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Whether it’s working out or whether it’s trying to play high-level hockey in the offseason to compete with surrounding towns. It’s happening. Kids are actually taking this sport seriously and realizing that you got to play the game and train for the game year-round if you want to compete.”