WHSL is searching a signature win to get it kickstarted.
Fifth-year Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake high school girls’ hockey head coach Kevin Marani is a firm believer that winning is contagious.
However, it’s something his squad has done little of over the past two seasons, posting just six victories combined. As WHSL heads into this winter, Marani said he once again believes his squad has the talent to be successful, it’s just about going out and executing.
“They’ve lost enough and they’re fed up,” said Marani, who guided the Panthers to back-to-back tournament appearances in his first two seasons. “They know that they’re a good team, and they know that they’re good players. We just need that signature win — that one signature win that we know we can do. And once that happens — winning is contagious.”
Marani said winning is also mentality he’s constantly trying to instill in his players.
“It’s truly just believing in yourself, like, ‘OK, we’re down a goal, but we’ve been here before, we’re going to win this game,’” he explained. “Not, ‘Oh boy, we’ve been here before, we’re here again, we’re going to lose again.’”
On the ice, it’s about perfecting the basics.
“We work on practice every single practice for 15 minutes of practice and it’s fundamentals, some days they got it, some days they don’t,” Marani explained.
It starts with commitment.
“We made a big thing at the end of last season that we need every girl committed,” Marani said. “Even when we don’t practice, give us 15 to 20 minutes of shooting balls or hockey pucks against the net or a wall or whatever and passing and stick handling. That’s something that I challenged them with.”
Marani said that so far he’s been impressed with what he’s seen.
“We’ve 100 percent seen the hard work they’ve put on in the offseason,” he said. “Now it’s just about execution.”
Senior captain Alyssa Murphy (Kingston) had no problem with execution last season pacing WHSL with 27 goals and 15 assists en route to league all-star status. She’s once again going to be relied upon to shoulder the load on offense. She’ll serve on the first line, alongside junior co-captain Emily McDonald (Whitman) and sophomore Ellie Grady (Kingston).
“Alyssa is everything you want to coach,” Marani said. “Talent-wise, she is right up there with the best in our league. She is a good kid and great leader. She works her butt off and is one of the hardest working kids we have on the team.“
McDonald potted six goals and dished out nine assists last winter.
“She is such a good kid,” Marani said. “She is a great leader and she’s got great skill. She’s worked on her shot, she’s worked on her shot. We’re looking from big things from Emily. I think she’s going to have a breakthrough season.”
Sophomores Abby Powers and Lilly Ulvila, both of whom are from Kingston, combined for 10 goals and 11 assists last winter and have improved immensely, according to Marani.
Junior Caleigh Tompkins (Kingston) anchor the blue line with freshman Kendyl Peterson (Kingston).
Peterson is one of a few freshmen that are expected to contribute right away. Shay Kelleher and Casandra Martin will see significant ice time at forward.
Junior Kat Gilbert (Halifax) returns in net after turning away 481 shots last season.
“She is motivated, into it and you can see the difference,” Marani said. “She seems like she is very concentrated. When she is engaged, she is one of the best goalies in our league.”
Marani is setting the bar once again this season.
“This is probably the deepest team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Marani said. “If we don’t make the state tournament this year, it would be a disappointment. I expect 100 percent to make the state tournament.”
WHSL returns to the ice Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:45 p.m. against Bishop Stang at Rockland Ice Rink.
“I’m looking forward to this season,” said the coach. “We’re so close. I’m just hoping that everything clicks. We need that one signature win to get that confidence so the girls know we’re good.”