It was a special season on the ice for the boys’ hockey team.
If you can get a team to collectively buy into the same message, usually good things will follow.
So, to see his Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ hockey team go on the program’s longest postseason run in at least 15 years didn’t take head coach Chris Googins by surprise one bit. The Panthers posted a 17-6-1 record and went all the way to the Div. 2 South semifinals, where they fell to eventual co-state champion Canton.
“They really just stayed true to what their goal was and that was just trying to do their part to make the program better,” said the 10th-year head coach. “They didn’t care who got the points or the glory, they were just more interested in the program moving ahead. It does take a core group of kids to help establish a culture to have some relative success.”
It started with seniors Eddie Collins, Calvin Cooper, John Hagan, Adam Solari, Chris Stoddard, and Reed Watson, all of whom were four-year players who won just one game their freshman year.
“It can’t be mentioned enough of what a great character-driven core of seniors these have been,” Googins said. “None of them have left. They’ve always tried to push each other. I know there’s three kids who have letters on their jerseys, but anyone of them I would be comfortable calling a captain.”
Patriot League All-Stars Adam Solari and Stoddard keyed the offense. Adam Solari led the team with 23 goals to go with 11 assists, while Stoddard had a team-high 28 helpers to complement nine goals.
“They’re two different types of players and I think that’s why they had such a good year together,” Googins said. “Chris is more of a pass-first type of a kid and Adam is a shoot-first type of kid and it’s a great formula. They really did not care who scored, it was always about the end result.”
Freshman Matt Solari was the other piece of the Panthers’ top line and made quite the first impression, finding the back of the net 18 times with 14 assists.
“He’s very fortunate that he played in three postseason games, three tournament games,” Googins said. “We’ve got other important kids coming back along with Matty who played significant time in the tournament.”
No one played more significant time in the tournament than junior goaltender Bobby Siders, who oftentimes stood on his head. A Patriot League All-Star, Siders recorded 26 saves in a 2-0 shutout victory over Scituate in the quarterfinals.
“Bobby is a hockey player,” Googins said. “He knows when we need a whistle and he knows when to deflect a puck in a certain corner. He’s constantly communicating. He really has been the backbone of this team. He’s going to continue and hopefully elevate his game because we are losing some production.”
Junior blueliners Jack Allen and Kevin Willis should once again form a strong nucleus in front of Siders next winter.
“They know the system, they communicate very well with each other,” Googins said. “Looking for much bigger and better things from all of them.
“The bottom line is the heart, the desire, the work ethic, that’s there. But now there has to be a little more sport-specific training and it comes down to skating. You have to be able to skate at a higher level and make quick decisions. That starts in the weight room and working on legs.
Googins said he believes this season could be a turning point for his program, which had struggled to gain traction in the past.
“Moving forward, the new normal is to get to this level annually and try to see if you can get some good opportunities and move forward,” Googins said. “We talk a lot about the word complacency and we try not to let it infect our team and I’m hoping getting into the tournament and trying to go deep is kind of the new normal.
“There’s a lot of good programs at Whitman-Hanson and these kids all see it and want to try to get their program to where they’re contenders every year.”