The Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ hockey team started to click at the end of the season.
The Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ hockey team wished they had more of it together this past winter.
After a 1-8 start to the season, the Panthers won three out of four and finally seemed to be hitting their stride. But the only issue was, their shortened campaign was finished.
“Unfortunately, right when we were starting to play really well and really jelling and figuring out our roster and who plays well with who, the season was over,” said first-year head coach Rob Peters. “It kind of ended too quickly for a team that was starting to play really well.”
The early struggles were expected. The Panthers, who went 4-9, boasted a roster that consisted of just six seniors. Not only that, but Marshfield and Hingham joined the Patriot League this year.
“We knew that we were going to have a lot of growing pains to get through,” Peters said. “We knew that when you’re going through those growing pains — that rebuild — it’s tough to have the schedule that we did, but it is what it is. We always know we play in one of the toughest leagues in the state and I think we got through those growing pains.”
A reason they were able to get through those growing pains was because they didn’t let wins and losses affect their approach.
“The big story with our team is we didn’t look at the record,” Peters said. “Let’s look at every shift, every period, at every game and take it as it comes. If you’re not disciplined or allow yourself to get frustrated too easily then it could be a worse year.”
Peters lauded his senior captains, Jack Allen, Bobby Siders and Kevin Willis, for keeping the group on track.
“Those are three guys that you just don’t get in your program very often,” Peters said. “They’re special individuals and chosen by their peers to be captains this year and they really stepped up.”
Especially in W-H’s 3-2 win over Plymouth North on Feb. 6, which was the start of their three-game winning streak.
“We went down 2-1 in the third and they just kept going,” Peters said. “We were in the game, we were outshooting them. At that point, it was a turning part of the season.
“The captains said, ‘Guys, we’re playing better, things are coming together, we’re outshooting them, these are the things we need to start seeing.’ And we came out in the third and we scored two late goals. If you don’t have that leadership, you don’t score those two goals.”
Willis was tabbed a Patriot League Keenan Division All-Star, along with sophomore sniper Matt Solari.
Solari paced W-H with 12 goals to complement eight assists.
“Matt leads by his play,” Peters said. “Every day he is working hard, every day he is asking questions, every day he is trying to make other guys better. He holds himself like a true professional at the rink. I’m excited to see what he has for the next two years of his career.”
Freshman Luke Tropeano (two goals, 10 assists) and sophomore Joe Culley (three goals, three assists) formed the rest of the Panthers’ young top line.
“With two weeks left in the season, we ended up moving Joe Culley from defense to forward and he ended up playing with Matt Solari and Luke Tropeano,” Peters explained. “He ended up having four points in the last six games. That just comes with time in the season and unfortunately, we just didn’t have time. Once we started to get going we only had about a month and a half left.”
Juniors John Ward (three goals, seven assists) and Bobby Hunter (two goals) also found the back of the net multiple times this season.
In net, Siders, a 2019-20 league all-star, and junior Erik Dean formed a solid tandem. Siders had 32 stops in a 4-3 win over Pembroke in the opening round of the Patriot Cup. Dean stopped 46 shots in a loss to Hingham.
“[This season] is a big push forward,” Peters said. “We saw the best of the best a lot. I think we’re on our way. We know where we gotta be and we gotta get there.”