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Creative practice

Cohasset skaters get most from drills

By Andrew MacDougall
March 1, 2012
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As his players practiced in preparation for their first game in the Division 3 South Sectional tonight against Abington (Bourne, 7:30 p.m.), Cohasset High boys’ coach Bob Walsh watched intently from the red line.

Walsh puts his squad through a series of classic drills during practice, exercises that work on stick handling, passing, and overall physical conditioning.

Unlike many coaches, however, Walsh actively and frequently alters drills to suit his players’ strengths and weaknesses, and to allow on-ice creativity to emerge.

“We just do drills different,’’ said senior defenseman Sean McKenna. “I don’t know how he does it. It might be from a movie, I don’t know, but that’s how he does it. He’s a great coach.’’

The Skippers have responded well, especially on offense. At 14-3-3, Cohasset has scored the most goals (123) of any Division 1, 2, or 3 program, entering the postseason riding a 10-game unbeaten streak.

“We basically cater offense to talent,’’ said Walsh, in his sixth season with the Skippers. “We run some basic systems like every other hockey team, but tweak systems to be able to exploit talent that we have better.

“The drills have been designed to enhance the talent that’s there; to create a little different flow and creativity. We try to let them have as much creativity as possible.’’

What Walsh alters is a bit of a state secret amongst him and his players, but one drill, called “the Shark,’’ gets the Skippers ready for the power play by incorporating puck movement and passing while putting bodies in front of the net.

Transitioning the Shark from practice to a game is difficult, but working around the parameters of the play is something team members actively try to pursue when on the power play.

“It never really comes out perfect,’’ said senior captain Alex Evans, who scored his 100th career point in the final regular season game. “But in games, we work it and try to get variations of it.’’

As the team leader with 41 points, Evans skates the left wing on the prolific first line (105 total points), which is centered by Vinny Calorio, with John Collins on the right side.

But the Skippers are not dependent on what the first line produces. They run four lines, and more often than not, players like Terence Doonan, Tommy O’Brien, or Ryan McGovern are the first to get the Skippers on the board.

“I think that our lines work really well together,’’ said junior forward Connor Goetz. “Our first line has been really strong throughout this year. Second and third [lines], if the first line isn’t putting up numbers, they’re there to back them up.’’

No one has benefited more from Walsh’s coaching style this season than Calorio. After spending much of last year anchoring the Skippers’ third line, Calorio spent the majority of the offseason preparing for his final year on the Cohasset ice.

He attended power skate and stick handling clinics, and his heightened skill level allowed him to fit perfectly into the creative mindset of his linemates. He enters the tourney with 36 points.

Sophomore goalie Brandon Winn has also benefited from his teammates’ skill level. After a rocky start in the first 10 games of his varsity career, Winn was dominant the second half of the season. Excluding a 7-7 tie against Abington in the season finale, Winn allowed eight goals in nine games, including just one to Division 3-best Norwell in a 5-1 victory over the Clippers.

Winn credits viewing plays from different angles in practice with aiding in his development.

“Just with their skill level alone, it helps to know you’re being shot on by some of the best players in the state,’’ said Winn. “It helps you be quicker, know where people are going to be at different times. It helps.’’

At the beginning of this season, Walsh asked his players where they wanted to be at the end of the year. Unlike many past teams, the Skippers have their eyes on TD Garden.

“Most times when I’ve asked my team what they want out of the season, the guys have always kind of been of the opinion they want to go deep or do well in tourney,’’ said Walsh. “This year, guys want to win the tourney and win the finals this year.’’

If the Skippers can push their 10-game unbeaten streak to 14 games, they’ll get their chance to play on the Garden ice.

“We’re just going to have to keep playing our game and keep putting up the numbers we’ve put up,’’ said senior center Jamie Faber. “Not only how many goals we’ve scored, but our defense needs to step up and [Winn] needs to play well.

“If we just play our game, I’m 100 percent confident we can make it to the Garden.’’

Hingham girls take tough road to tourney

A year removed from their win over Acton-Boxborough in the Division 1 final, the Hingham girls are back as 10th seed in a talented bracket. The Harbormen opened their tourney quest Tuesday night against 23d seed Masconomet Regional.

“Last year was one of first years where the best team didn’t win the state title,’’ said Hingham coach Tom Findley. “We got to the final game and were able to win. In these one-and-done tourneys, if you’re not prepared, you’re going to end up getting clipped early.’’

Hingham is no stranger to breaking through from the middle of the pack. Last year, as a No. 8 seed, the Harbormen captured the title thanks to marquee victories over St. Mary’s of Lynn, Winthrop/Lynn, and Acton-Boxborough.

This year, as an independent, the Harbormen scheduled a rigorous slate of games, playing the likes of Duxbury, Acton-Boxborough, St. Mary’s, Sandwich, and Barnstable.

“Every year I try to put together the best schedule to play,’’ said Findley. “You try to play anyone and everyone you can that may be in the tourney. We played most of the teams ahead of us seeding-wise. I think that’ll help in the tournament. It gets you prepared, for sure.’’

The Harbormen graduated six seniors from last year’s squad, including four starters, but have received major contributions from junior Jane Freda (28 goals, 24 assists) and junior Sarah Schwenzfeier (22 goals, 23 assists). Sophomore Taylor Walsh has been impressive in net, while several freshmen have stepped in and filled big roles on defense.

“I think they realize that in girls’ tourney [play], it’s one and done tourney, so they realize it can come down to one shift, one play, or some of the small things they need to do that they’ve been taught that could end the season,’’ said Findley. “I think that’s the key.’’

The Hingham skaters have a difficult road ahead if they wish to celebrate on the Garden ice again this year, but Findley is confident that his team may be as good as any.

Andrew MacDougall can be reached at andrew.macdougall.

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